Archive for the ‘Applications’ Category
Applications of Interactive Technologies
I was born in a Queens hospital and raised in two different Manhattan apartments. Both were on the Upper West Side and within eight blocks of each other. The M5, M7, and M104 were the buses in my neighborhood, right on Broadway. When I was little, I remember occasionally getting on them, but I don’t recall how far down we would go. I rarely take the bus when I’m in the city, but rode the M5 for the first time in years several months ago. My cousin hates the subway and I accompanied her on the bus down to 25th street.
This assignment was pretty exciting for me because it’s been years since I actually took the M5 uptown and I’ve never ridden a bus line from beginning to end. When I boarded the bus on Broadway in front of Tisch, I expected to stay on it as it looped through Houston and up 6th Avenue. Once I sat down, I looked out the front windshield and the first thing I noticed was the skinny strip of sky that formed into a jagged, stair-like opening at the top. When we turned right/west onto Houston Street the strip of sky remained the same shape, but wider. The bus stopped on Houston and LaGuardia Place and the driver announced “Last Stop”. I asked if the bus would be going back uptown and he said yes, but I had to get off first. The driver then shut down the lights, closed up the bus, and left for a break. I sat down on the bench within a new fancy bus shelter. Looking at the outside of the bus I was just on, I read “Clean Air Hybrid Electric Bus”. I thought I’d be getting back onto the same bus within a few minutes, but another older model bus came rolling along, ready to go uptown. I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t be getting onto the newer bus, but realized once I was seated that the floor elevation is higher on older buses and better for sightseeing.
While we were still on Houston, a crackly automated message played on the loudspeaker: “Protect your wallet and unnecessary…..We want you to be safe and enjoy the ride.” At this point, I was still bundled up with my jacket closed and hat on. I decided to get more comfortable, unzipped my jacket and took my hat off. Taking off the hat actually opened up my perspective by removing the brim above my head. What a difference! When we got to 6th Avenue and 3rd Street there was another new bus shelter, but this one had three different ads that rotated within the glass display. Moving along I was delighted to see holiday ornaments of shooting stars along the streets as well as old-style lampposts. The style of lampposts became more modern after 14th Street, but variations of holiday decorations with stars remained throughout. A lot of people boarded on 15th Street. For a few blocks starting on 18th Street, the buildings were of an older architecture. Passed 23rd Street the buildings started to get taller and more modern with a bunch of very new residential high-rises. That’s the thing I love about New York City, particularly within Manhattan, the constant juxtaposition of old and new.
When we arrived into the Macy’s area of Herald Square on 34th Street, the sky was already getting dark. A couple of the trees were lit with blue LEDs that were animated and resembled falling drops of rain. Some of the people on the bus, including myself looked out in fascination. Some of the things I heard: “What is that?” “What are they?” “That’s great!” “Technology.” It was such a simple, but amazingly delightful installation. I was inspired and remembered that I love sight specific stuff. I made a mental note that I need to create something just as awesome. As we headed above 34th Street, the variation of lit star decorations on the lampposts turned into lit snowflakes. The buildings continued to get taller and the view of sky smaller. A couple of pedicabs rode alongside us. I thought that those guys must have lots of stamina and really diesel calves to be hauling people around the city in the cold. It was definitely good exercise. I also saw a video ad on top of a yellow cab for the first time. It looped an advert for a cologne by the music artist P. Diddy or rather, for his menswear label Sean John.
We turned west onto Central Park South/59th Street and I was surprised at how dark it was along the park side of the street. I expected a brightly lit sidewalk, but that wasn’t the case. A handful of horse-drawn carriages click-clacked along. I read: “$34 for the first half-hour” sign and just thought “Whoa.” It was more expensive and seemingly slower than the pedicabs we passed earlier. Soon after, the woman in the seat in front of me started singing though I didn’t note the song at the time. We passed the big Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, which is still a weird site for me. I remember when it didn’t exist and in its place was the New York Coliseum. Coming down Central Park South, you’d see the big white building with no windows and four huge plaques on the façade. I used to go to car shows there with my dad.
A lot of people boarded the bus on 61st Street. We passed Lincoln Center where a Christmas tree was lit with plain lights. I vaguely recall that it used to be lit with colorful lights and large musical instrument shaped ornaments. The Lincoln Center area is where I grew up and I always get a strange little feeling when I’m in the neighborhood. Passing through on the bus and not getting off made it a little stranger. I think it’s a weird combination of feeling both connected and disconnected at the same time. That weird feeling segued into an actual chill around 64th Street and I wondered if the temperature had just dropped outside or if the heat on the bus lowered. Perhaps both. On top of the 66th Street subway entrance on the west side of Broadway was a video ad. At this point in the trip, I also realized we had passed a considerable number of Chase banks, HSBC banks, Starbucks, and Duane Reades. I figured there would be more to come. I also remembered that Duane Reade first started as a store on Broadway between Duane and Reade Streets in Manhattan and here it was, competing for real estate against some huge multi-national companies. At 70th Street the sidewalk lighting seemed to grow dim and as we turned west onto 72nd Street, the lighting was even less. Once we were on West End, it was all residential buildings with no storefronts, less traffic, less people, and it seemed even darker. The bus driver also announced that the last stop would be 168th Street and not George Washington Bridge.
Next to a non-sheltered bus stop, between 74th and 75th Street was a birdhouse hanging from a tree branch. I loved that it was just there, intact, unvandalized, and random. Around 82nd Street, there was a tree on the sidewalk decorated with colorful holiday lights and stars. There were fewer people on the bus at this point and a few conversations being spoken in Spanish. What I also noticed was that there were mostly females of varied ages on the bus and I wondered if that was usually the case at that point in the route. From 97th Street on, no new passengers boarded.
The buildings along Riverside Drive are really beautiful and it was fun to peer into the lobbies, some of them with menorahs visible. The entranceway of one building in particular was composed of three magnificent archways. What was also awesome was that I could look out to my left over the Hudson and into New Jersey. Towards the front and in the distance, the lights of the George Washington Bridge glimmered. When we pulled out of Riverside Drive somewhere in the 130s, I could see even more sky (though it was night) and some storefront signs were in Spanish. At one point I saw a tree planted within an island triangle that had big ball-shaped lights on it. It looked lonely and didn’t seem nearly as exciting or as appreciated as the raining LED lit trees in Herald Square. On the bus, there were still very few passengers, but the bus filled up again on 150th Street. I only heard Spanish being spoken. The numbers started to dwindle soon after until our last stop on 168th Street, where I was the only passenger left. We were near Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital and the neighborhood I used to stay in on the weekends with my father, after the divorce.
The bus ride was interesting as well as nostalgic. I was glad to have taken it while it was both light and dark out, so I could see the two sides of the city. Besides the general scene of people, stores, lights, and buildings, I found myself being aware of how much sky was visible throughout the route. Growing up in Manhattan, being able to view the sky was always something I valued and still do. Unless you’re on a high floor with the surrounding buildings further away or shorter, you just don’t get to see very much of it.
Some thoughts and questions I was left with as a result of this trip:
How long will it be before video ads are implemented into the new bus shelters and subway platforms as well as on the inside and outside of buses and subway trains? How much more energy will be consumed to power it all? What percentage of New York City kids wish they could see more of the sky more often? Which age range thinks of it more? A simple little wood bird-house hanging randomly from a tree in the city is just as amazing and inspiring to me as animated LEDs on a tree. I love the additional vibrancy of the city during the holidays, even if it creates more crowding, more traffic, and more energy consumption. And last, but not least: If the New York based Love Store chain had survived and had become as successful as Duane Reade, red neon hearts and the word “Love” would’ve been rampant throughout the city.