The Smart Societies theme takes a research through design approach by bringing in new systems to evoke experiences into an every-day context to get a multi-stakeholder perspective on their use and usefulness to address specific societal challenges. Actual user experiences of a community in real-life circumstances are evaluated and are utilized to improve the proposed service or product, and to study the effects and opportunities of technological interventions on our major challenges.
The research theme addresses a wide variety of questions, on different levels of abstraction. On a higher level, scientific questions can be things like: How do we include vulnerable groups such as elderly, refugees or long-term unemployed, in the social fabric of the city? Or: How to create tools that can support and measure the diversity needed during innovation actions? On a more practical level, topics that are addressed vary from Can we motivate people towards an active health style by adding technology to the public space? to How can we seamlessly integrate socially meaningful assignments into higher education curricula?
The Eindhoven University of Technology harbors a unique combination of technological knowledge, knowledge about users and society and access to target groups. Students and researchers can quickly explore the problem through making something that addresses the problem in context while looking and feeling nice and inviting. That way a realistic experience is created, which leads to realistic feedback from envisioned users. The departments of Industrial Design, Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences and the Built Environment have ample experience in intersecting with target groups and evaluating a design in the context of a user. We collaborate extensively with other departments inside and outside of the TU/e, to incorporate and exchange knowledge, and include state-of-the-art technological solutions in the experiential prototypes.
Next to doing experiments in the region, the university campus itself breathes experiments and innovations. Smart cities solutions are implemented in the university buildings, turning them into living labs. The TU/e’s Innovation Lab, its state-of-the-art research infrastructures and the tight connections that exist between the different departments enable short lead times for prototype development.
Project Finse piste 2.0, RUN! and ‘Eckart moving route’
Creating a stimulating sports environment
The goal of the projects Finse piste 2.0, Run! and their successor the Eckart moving route, is to motivate people to get and stay active and fit, by bringing the advantages of the fitness room to outside running tracks. This goal is achieved by interactive route guidance which initiates challenges and games.
TU/e and Fontys researchers and students have developed and tested a number of ideas, resulting in smart tracks together with the Municipality of Eindhoven, Genneper Parken, Eckart, Triangulum, Energybureau and LedMark. For RUN!, posts are installed along the edge of a 50-meter route, which light up to encourage runners to sprint. Lights are mounted on both sides of each post, and are visible to people running in either direction. The speed at which the lights are turned on depends on the speed registered by the sensors in the measuring zone just before the sprint section. The idea is to create a fun effect on the track – a short light show – when a runner sprints within the designated time. Within the Eckart moving route’ project, the concept and technology was further developed with the residents of Eckart and several companies, resulting in a 1.8 kilometre-long interactive and wireless smart lighting path, constructed around a pond, acting as a running and walking pacer.
An interactive system for multi-stakeholder discussions
Today’s public issues bring different stakeholders together in local multi-disciplinary collaborations. However, the conflicting stakes, different backgrounds and shifting roles and responsibilities of all of the different stakeholders involved ask for new ways of collaborating and interacting.
To bring out different perspectives and enrich deliberative conversation with embodied and social cognition, PhD candidate Philemonne Jaasma with a team of researchers designed [X]Changing Perspectives ([X]CP): an interactive system with tracking tables and tokens that mediates multi-stakeholder discussions. By (re)positioning tokens with symbols on tracking tables, participants exchange viewpoints and they form a collective landscape. The real time visualization of the tracked token positions feeds the exchange of narratives and motivations between table-groups and broadens the insight into the public good. The system has been tested in dozens of real-life cases with 30 to 120 participants. [X]CP was designed and evaluated together with the Municipality of Eindhoven, consultancy firm Necker van Naem and RISE Interactive, Umeå, Sweden.