Urban computing exhibit in New York City

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Toward the Sentient City is a new exhibition in New York that explores the broad theme of urban computing, where sensors, mobile devices, pervasive wireless, and the GeoWeb intersect with city streets. The exhibit runs until November 7 at the Architectural League of New York. While it seems like one of those "you had to be there" experiences, the Web site has a ton of detailed information about the five fascinating and provocative projects commissioned for the show. There are also nearly a dozen other existing works identified by the show's curators, including BB pal Eric Paulos's Citizen Science research. Here are summaries of the five new pieces, from a University of Buffalo press release:

• "Too Smart City" is a set of three street furniture pieces that come to life with embedded intelligence and robotic systems. The Smart Bench (image above), for instance, is described by its creators as "a gorgeous two seater that recognizes vagrancy and is capable of lifting people up and dumping them."

• "Amphibious Architecture" presents two networks of floating interactive tubes, installed in sites in the East River and the Bronx River, that house a range of sensors below water and an array of lights above water (image above). The sensors monitor water quality, presence of fish and human interest in the river ecosystem. The lights respond to the sensors and create feedback loops between humans, fish and their shared environment. An SMS interface allows citizens to text-message the fish, to receive real-time information about the river and to contribute to a display of collective interest in the environment.

• "Natural Fuse" harnesses the carbon-sinking capabilities of plants to create a city-wide network of devices that act as both electric outlets and resources that offset CO2 generated in the production of electricity.

• "Trash Tank" focuses on how pervasive technologies can expose the challenges of waste management and sustainability. The project uses hundreds of small, smart, location-aware tags, a first step towards the deployment of smart-dust — networks of tiny, locatable and addressable micro-electromechanical systems. These tags are attached to different types of trash so that these items can be followed through the city's waste management system, revealing the final journey of our everyday objects in a series of real-time visualizations.

• "Breakout!" (co-created by my IFTF colleague Anthony Townsend -dp) uses three sets of special tools to explore the dynamic possibilities of a single question: what if the entire city was your office? Drawing inspiration from the shared office spaces of the co-working movement, "Breakout!" creates alternative venues for collaborative work outside of traditional office buildings by injecting lightweight versions of essential office infrastructure into urban public spaces.

Toward the Sentient City exhibition

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