When you’re waiting to cross the street, the crosswalk signal doesn’t know if you’re out for a morning run or you’re an 86-year-old with a walker. Like other infrastructure, it’s designed based on averages. But as smart tech grows in cities, a walk sign or streetlight may eventually know who someone is—and tailor itself for any particular needs.
In a new design, UK designers Ross Atkin and Jonathan Scott created a system of “responsive street furniture” that senses people walking by and adapts. If someone needs more light, a streetlight will brighten; if someone needs more places to rest, benches will unlock when they pass. When a blind person walks past a streetlight, the post can read out the name of the store in front.
When Atkin first started researching urban design for disability several years ago, he noticed that most attempts at accommodation involved tradeoffs. Some people might need more places to sit down along a route, for example, but extra benches make it difficult for someone with a wheelchair to get by. … (read more)