A US company is using augmented reality (AR) to display real-time information on public transport options on a range of surfaces in urban areas.
Public transport is a key element in the steady progression towards ‘smart’ cities. According to World Health Organisation estimates, by 2050 seven out of ten people will be living in urban areas. Now TransitScreen, a Washington DC-based company founded in 2012, which specialises in transportation software and digital signage, is looking to optimise urban mobility. The company’s latest smartphone app, SmartWalk, enables real-time information about public transport options to be displayed on a variety of surfaces in an urban environment. Along the lines of the information screens at rail or bus stations and airports, SmartWalk projects information – walking distance to the nearest cinema, number of bicycles available for hire at the local station, the various transport options available, and so on – on to a range of surfaces, including the pavement in front of you.
Spatial AR becoming part of public spaces
The system is based on the concept of spatial AR or mapping, displayed in such a way that the system “brings useful information to a space that was previously inactive,” explains TransitScreen co-founder Ryan Croft. The information displayed comes directly from public or private sector transport companies, but in the longer term TransitScreen intends to produce its own data. “City authorities, universities, transport companies and private firms all see potential in our offering, and we hope to have them all equipped by the end of the year,” reveals Ryan Croft.
Fostering sustainable mobility
The TransitScreen team argue that SmartWalk will make obsolete the many existing transport apps designed to help city dwellers get around. However, “our products are intended not so much to force people to use a smartphone to find their bearings but actually to make the entire city infrastructure smarter and more convenient,” underlines the company’s co-founder. Enabling passers-by and travellers to see and compare transport options and select the the best one for their particular needs will inter alia help to provide “a sustainable alternative to single-occupant vehicles,” he claims. TransitScreen’s initial digital signage product is already being used in eight cities across the United States. The SmartWalk app is currently in test phase and the company plans to set up in three cities before the end of the summer. Beyond this, Ryan Croft assures us that other cities outside the US have also been showing interest.