David Hartwell Dip Des MCSD,Department of Industrial Design,
De Montfort University,
Leicester, UK.

Telephone: +44 (0)116 255.1551 ext.8330 Fax: +44 (0)116 257.7574


The Development of an Interactive Information System,

for Use in Public Transport Departure/Arrival Areas;

Concepts & Considerations

David Hartwell Dip Des MCSD

Department of Industrial and Graphic Design

De Montfort University,

Leicester LE1 9BH.

Abstract

Mass Public Transport facilities/centres are tending to grow increasingly large and complex within the developed world; a general increase in mobility on a national and international basis, coupled with other factors such as technological hype and an increased awareness of the need for security, have all contributed to the development. in scale and complexity of facilities dedicated to long distance travel . This paper outlines the development of an interactive information system, for use in public transport departure/arrival areas; concepts & considerations

International airports generally represent the most sophisticated, complex and bewildering of all travel terminals. Peter Davey (1) describes the universal syndrome thus; "we all know the boredom, disorientation and general disagreeableness of airports........................ they totally lack the structured and enjoyable experience that catching a train or boat once had"

Certainly a complex and baffling range of often interdependent activities and procedures await the air traveller;.including:-

- long term parking

- customs clearance

- checking in

- passport control

- security checks

- boarding control

- transfer to departure gate/satellite

- exchanging currency

- obtaining travellers cheques

- baggage reclaim

Not to mention other more mundane but equally necessary activites.

These activities are supposedly aided (?!) by a plethora of competing visual information in the form of advertising and signage; of which the traveller must remain a passive viewer.

These hurdles, stressful in themselves, are further, often undertaken in a state of semi-exhaustion.

However, perhaps the single element that most contributes to the stress experienced by many air travellers, is the lack of easily accessible, comprehensive and controllable information that could directly and effectively inform them about a variety of issues and aspects relative to their destination; even at the most basic level.

There are fairly obvious categories of information, but it is suggested that the key to an effective system is that it should provide information at a pace and in the degree of depth that any particular individual requires at any one time.

In other words this information shoud be provided in an interactive environment which would allow the viewer/recipient to:-

- select/reject

- review/consider

-focus/choose

-absorb/ignore

George B Leonard (2), offers some support for this viewpoint he states that; "no environment can strongly affect a person unless it is strongly interactive" and "to be interactive the environment must be responsive, that is, must provide relevant feedback to the learner "

In order for such a proposed system to be truly responsive/sensitive to the needs of the user, it should also be capable of adapting to the differing physical needs of the total cross section of the population or as near to this goal as feasible.. obvious examples of those with specific physical needs, being those who are disabled in some way --in fact, a high proportion of the population is, if for example you consider minor visual defects, hearing impairments and the more basic back problems as constituting forms of disablement.

Another obvious category of user, is that of the elderly; (as distinct from the disabled) it is important to recognise; "that by the time we reach the third decade of the 21st century half the adults in the UK will be aged 50 or over, and that the same holds true for most of Europe" (3); quite apart from any moral/social considerations it is important to appreciate that there are very sound commmercial reasons to cater properly for the needs of the elderly; Alan Tye puts this point into sharp perspective; "The elderly market is the largest market ever, it is an international market obviously......" (4).

Certain existing facliities/information systems have prompted these proposals, these include:-

- A system of projected advertising installed at Charles de Gaulle Airport:

This comprises the projection of succeeding images and text onto suspended silvered

globes, arranged in a linear format parallel to the travellator in the arrival area.

- A simple yet effective basic interactive system for locating Hotel accommation, again at C de G Airport.This comprises a vertical board on which photos (typically interior &

exterior shots) of hotels in the Paris area are featured together with map locations and

prices. A free phone allows the traveller to interact with this information and organise suitable accommodation.

- less specifically, but of increasing impact: the wide and ever expanding range of computerised interactive multi-media software, available for consumption within the home and many public areas; ( typically science musums/parks )

This last (and more recognisable) category of intertactive system naturally features VDU screens as the media for providing visual information; by definition these visual images are framed by rectilinear borders and are relatively intense in terms of brightness/contrast.

It is suggested that these two inherent characteristics would tend to reduce the potential for assimilation and hence the effectiveness of any visual information so disseminated; in situations where the viewer/participant is stressed and/or tired.

Certainly, a recent study undertaken jointly by Safeway and the Royal College of Art cited amongst other criteria the need to reduce forms of visual overload generally within large scale pulic areas and further highlighted the need for studies to be undertaken in relation to the effect of colour and light (5) additionally the requirement for some form of relaxation centre was noted, which might include, "restful sounds-waterfall....."

An additional disadvantage typically present within conventional interactive format multi-media systems is that the graphic information displays are often seen by many adults as being fairly complex, aggressive and unfriendly; which characterisics tend to become exaggerated when the participant is tired/stressed

It is proposed therefore, that the use of projected images (both moving and still), which are less intense and have the potential for modification of their outer perimeter (eg;ä to a more rounded and "restful" shape) would provide for a more effective and empathetic means of providing final visual output.

It is not the intention, at present, to characterise the physical attributes of the hardware of the proposed system, beyond providing a basic performance specification.

The essential components would comprise :-

1) An immediate environment with a comparatively low level of ambient lighting.

2) A viewing screen/surface onto which visual information can be projected.

3) An adjustable seat/seating incorporating simple controls to allow for interactive manipulation of stored visual and aural data, plus a localised, integrated variable audio output system .

4) A computerised system which would allow for storage and interactive retrieval of visual, aural and printed data; output to projection being via LCD screen.

5) A method of providing hard copy output.

Many detailed aspects would need to be considered in order to develop a comprehensive brief for the development of the system hardware; ergonomics/security being particular examples.

The focus here, is upon the way in which it is envisaged, the interactive visual information would be provided.

A review of recent travel brochures will disclose some examples where visual information is so organised as to provide both general and specific information ranging from an indication of (for example) the ambience of a particular district of a capital city, to very specific details about hotel accommodation. Another relatively recent featureä is an attempt to place the reader into the environment advertised; eg by featuring models representing typical tourists enjoying sightseeing etc.

These static techniques of amalgamating a variety of different visual/textual/graphic information, provide useful clues to the development of effective comprehensive interactive projected data, which could permit the user to gain relevant knowledge at both specific and intuitive levels; which, in addition to the obvious practical advantages could reduce stress levels associated with uncertainty.

( Specific examples of the proposed format and content for projected interactive data will form the basis of a sequence of supporting slides ).

References:

(1) Davey PAirports come of age; Architectural Review, May '91.

(2) Leonard G Education and Ecstasy.

(3) Coleman R Design Research for our future selves; Royal College of Art, 1994.

(4) Tye A. Designing for our future selves; Royal College of Art, 1993.

(5) Coleman R Design Research for our future selves; Royal College of Art, 1994.




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