3D interactive digital companion for urban data visualization, smart navigation and exploration
Our area of interest is the Kwun Tong Business Area, where many industrial buildings are concentrated. We would like to use the industrial buildings in this district as a pilot site of the project for our concept and design, with the hope that the project will be applicable to other city districts of similar qualities in the future.
Virtual Site Visit
Through our virtual site visit, we identify the problems in the context of Kwun Tong Industrial buildings. Many industrial buildings were built and flourished around the manufacturing industry in Kwun Tong since the 1950s, and contributed to the rich industrial history of Kwun Tong. However, the small and medium-sized enterprises, now occupying inside the industrial buildings, are facing a problem of low presence to customers, because the building’s exterior look conceals its interior functions. The unstructured business information systems and the crude interiors of the building also makes it difficult to navigate the street and inside the buildings.
Residents and visitors survey
Our interviews with local customers and business owners further revealed the problems and challenges. For customers, they reported a negative wayfinding and exploration experience because of the convoluted spatial layout and lack of clear directory guidance. For business owners, they expressed a demand and difficulty to have a stronger public presence to promote their business and a lack of connection with their potential customers. Overall, although the government is putting efforts into turning Kwun Tong Business Area into a second CBD and a smart city pilot area, people do not have a positive image or much enthusiasm about Kwun Tong so there is a gap between planning efforts and the image of Kwun Tong.
Current Challenge: (Frame an overall challenge)
First, we identify the problems in the context of Kwun Tong Industrial buildings. Many industrial buildings were built and flourished around the manufacturing industry in Kwun Tong since the 1950s, and contributed to the rich industrial history of Kwun Tong. However, the small and medium-sized enterprises, now occupying inside the industrial buildings, are facing a problem of low presence to customers, because the building’s exterior look conceals its interior functions. Also, the unstructured business information systems in this highly dense area are making it difficult to navigate the street and inside of the buildings.
Second, through research on policy and urban planning efforts in the Kwun Tong area, we found that the planning efforts are valuing and promoting the historical narratives and “Spirit of Creation” of the area. However, we also found that the old industrial buildings, that fabricated the unique narratives, were also influencing the community’s perception of the area as unrenovated and unwelcoming.
Therefore, we would like to minimize the problems through these project goals of increasing the presence of local gems hidden inside industrial buildings, enhancing the experience of navigation and exploration in dense vertical neighborhoods and unleashing the historical, social and economic values of vertical spaces using smart technologies.
Part II Analysis and Synthesis
Understanding the ongoing smart city plans has helped us to envision a feasible yet futuristic aspect of our design proposal. In particular, we noted that the plan is theming promotion of both the old and the new conditions, and to the creation of synergy between the built environment and the virtual city.
To synthesize our background research and research motivations, we asked research questions of
1. how we increase the public presence of local businesses and improve the navigation experience and
2. how we unleash the historical, social, and economic values of vertical spaces in Kwun Tong Business area, leveraging smart technologies.
We followed Kevin Lynch’s “The Image of the City’’ as our theoretical framework that describes a highly imageable city where users are able to form a clear and open-ended mental map of their environment. His theory underlies our ambition to create a user-centered and data-driven multidimensional city through our proposal.
With the futuristic optimism from the smart city agenda, we conducted research on the digital twin. We found the digital twin model is related to our design in that it can deliver three-dimensional information and real-time data about the city’s physical built environment and the digital environment as a virtual city.
Through a case study of the digital twin, we found that digital twin models have a powerful potential in making the urban infrastructure more manageable and accessible. But we also found that most of the models are focusing on research and analysis purposes, and their potential as end-to-end products to the community, has not been fully addressed yet. Therefore, we set the opportunity areas of the implementation of the digital twin model to our design proposal as promoting community participation that can achieve social inclusion through an experience-driven approach.
Refined Problem Statement
Combining results from our research, we presented a two-fold problem statement:
The Lack of promotional channels for small businesses in industrial buildings to promote their business and to engage with the local community.
The undervalued historical narrative and business potential of Kwun Tong Business Area due to the negative mental impression of the area.
Our project is an application with both the web and mobile platform. It is attached to the senseable city district on one hand, and the existing online data on the other hand. It creates a holistic journey of experiencing and exploring the district from navigating in the virtual city through the web platform at home to navigating the physical city with the assistance of the mobile platform on the street.
Overall Goal of Project
An important philosophy to our project is our relationship within the ecosystem of existing web platforms. Business profiles, promotions and customer reviews relevant to this area currently exist online in a scattered format, across instagram, facebook, individual webpages and various different channels. We are bringing this scattered information in the internet landscape together based on their shared geo-location, creating a virtual online collective, a counterpart to its physical cluster. This virtual cluster collects everything from social media promotion, experience sharing and rating apps and event helpers to foster a dynamic business district online and offline. We believe that bringing the spatial and historical information about the area together will greatly improve the online presence and offline interest in the businesses of the district.
Target User groups
There are three groups of key features for the application. It serves as a promotional channel for business owners, an information platform for customers and a spatial narrative device for customers or visitors.
1. Business Owners
- Have a greater presence through AR ads and vicinity-based notifications.
- Provide better shopping experience by giving customers real-time updates of the shop’s crowdedness.
- Better understand her stock status and notify customers of the newest items.
- Maintain her existing social media channel and have it linked to her BlueBird profile.
2. Local Residents
- Find a workshop close to her where she can practice painting and make friends with like-minded people.
- Know more information about what workshops are available to choose from, and way(s) to get there.
- Learn more about the history of Kwun Tong as a local resident.
Feature 1: Promotional Channel
The main features designed for business owners are AR advertisement that integrates social media contents and supports in-app content creation, and statistics dashboard that helps businesses better understand their customers, sell and stock items and better connect with their clients.
1-1. AR AdvertisementSocial media integration, content creation and promotion
Turning scattered information landscapes into a place-based, collected virtual city
1-2. Statistics DashboardHelping businesses better grasp customer flow, sales and item stock changes
Feature 2: Information Platform The second key feature “information platform” for customers includes AR routing and AR promotion. We think of AR routing as an experience that could not only be augmented by vision, but also by sound, based on the customer’s choice. For AR promotion, when walking on the street, the customers will encounter vicinity-based pop-up promotion, which increases the exploratory aspect of the experience and also heightens the chance for customers to actually utilize the coupons because it is physically close to them.
2-1. AR Advertisement
Augmented by sound
Augmented by vision
2-2. AR Promotion
Vicinity-based pop-up promotion
Feature 3: Spatial Narrative
The third key feature is “spatial narrative” for customers. On top of navigating through space, the time machine feature enables customers to navigate through time, discovering the rich history, culture and hidden stories of the district.
3-1. Time Machine
Time travel to history and hidden stories of the place. Enhance “time” dimension of “navigating through time and space”
Part IV: Design, Prototype & Iterations
1. Business Owners: Promotional Channel
Ms. Lam is the owner of a vintage clothing store located on the 8th floor of Kwok Kee industrial building. Her store has no exterior street presence and it takes a lot of effort for her to promote her business through its Instagram account and traditional methods like handing flyers but it yields insignificant results. She wants to have a greater presence through AR ads and vicinity-based notifications, provide better shopping experience to customers by giving real-time update of the shop’s crowdedness, better understand her stock status and notify customers of the newest items, and maintain her existing social media channel and have it linked to her BlueBird profile.
After linking her store’s instagram account with her BlueBird account, when making a new Ms.Lam can choose to make it a promotion and post to BlueBird simultaneously. Now, Ms.Lam’s advertisement is part of this virtual city. When navigating the district with the advertisement layer on, users can choose to show all commercial ads and the scene will be like this. They can walk or fly through the 3D scene using a mouse or keyboard. They can click into the ads to find out more information about the businesses or products of interest, or toggle on and off individual ads and adjust the density of the display.
Other than linking existing social media and online information over to the BlueBird platform, business owners like Ms.Lam can also design and make her own neon-style signage directly within the blue-bird platform and post it to the platform. Every shop sign and advertisement is like a card for business owners, when they double click on it, it will flip around to show the statistics on the backside, including number of clicks, popularity ranking among businesses of the same category, customer ratings, current capacity and wait time, stock menu, and daily weekly or monthly statistics of sales.
After becoming a member of the BlueBird application, Ms.Lam was glad to find out that her business now has more visibility both online and in physical space, and a better connection with her customers as she can provide them with timely information about her stock and shop capacity. She also finds it super easy to update information onto BlueBird, and she doesn’t need to abandon or reset any of her existing online channels.
2. Local Residents: Information Platform
Winney is a Kwun Tong Resident in her 20s. She likes painting a lot and hopes to become an illustrator in the future. Although she lives near Kwun Tong business area, she used to have little interest in exploring the area and it still feels like a maze to her. She wants to find a workshop close to her / where she can practice painting and make friends with like-minded people, know more information about what workshops are available, how to get there, and learn more about the history of Kwun Tong as a local resident. On her way to Atelier KT, a painting workshop she found online through BlueBird’s web platform, she turned on the AR routing to help her better navigate the complex area. While it is hard to orient herself on the 2D map, she now has a more bodily and intuitive idea of how she can get to her destination through the 3D AR navigation. When approaching the entrance of the building where the workshop is located, the app detects the physical components in the environment, and marks out the main entrance for her. It also tells her that there is a parking lot behind. Otherwise, she might miss the entrance and mistaken it as just a parking lot, as the entrance of industrial buildings is often confusing.
On her way to Atelier KT, she was also able to pick up a few promotions simply by clicking on the ads that pop up on her screen. She’s going to check out these two places after she finishes the workshop session on her way back.
Winney thinks that she had a super pleasant 3D navigation and AR discovery experience with the BlueBird Platform, and was able to stay informed about local information, through the exclusive local promotion along her way.
3. Local Resident: Spatial Narrative
Winney, the local resident, holds her phone up against an old industrial building and a time travel icon appears. It means that the platform has some information about this building’s history!
She tabs the icon and selects a year to examine. There was a movie studio on the eighth floor of this building back in 1954, which filmed the movie “Fly to Kwun Tong.” Today, the location of the studio is a restaurant called “Fly Restaurant.” There is in fact a walking tour for moviegoers that thread together all the movie studios that used to be around the block back in the days. Winney is now taking “a walking tour back in time” to discover the spatial history of Kwun Tong.
Winney feels like she is now more well-oriented and has a sense of attachment to her neighborhood by learning about the spatial history and culture across time. Now she can show off this knowledge to her friends! She also found a community that continues contributing to the living history of the place! She wants to be part of it by attending walking tours found through BlueBird and uploading content and sharing her experience on the platform. She’s sure that now this district is gonna be a place that she most frequents on a weekly basis.
Evaluation and Success Metrics
The uniqueness of our project within the market of other services is that it aims at an experience-driven approach for the users and maximizes the strength of 3D information for urban discovery experience. It is more three-dimensional than google maps, more experiential and much less technical than digital twin models, and creates a virtual community as various social media platforms.
We hold a futuristic optimism towards our hardware accommodations in the future, thinking about future hardware tools that will innovate how people currently interact with the physical space. While our interface demonstrations used computer and mobile screens as hardware, our platform can incorporate other visual, audio and haptics interfaces in our key features and improve the accessibility and playfulness of the interaction. By engaging the power of smart city technologies and urban data, and bringing the invisible visible,we improve the urban experience in a holistic way from an individual encounter with the 3D environment to community interactions across time and space.
By meeting the unmet need in the vertical industrial building space, including the need for navigation, discovery, and business presence, we hope to activate the Kwun Tong business district and transform it into a more knowable, engaging, and equitable urban destination.
1. AR Advertisement/Virtual City
Social media integration (plug-in), content creation and promotion
2.1 AR Route
Augmented by sound. Augmented by vision.
2.2 AR Promotion
Vicinity-based pop-up promotion.
3. Spatial Narrative
Time Machine Time travel to history and hidden stories of the place. The “time” dimension of “navigating through time and space”.