Social Signals
| 2021–2022
A small-scale research installation that encourages social interaction in public space
It began during COVID as a response to social distancing protocols. Unlike stickers and signs, this digital system could adapt to a space and its occupants to provide guidance while visualizing paths in a more expressive way.The hardware requirements for the installation needed to remain lightweight for adaptability.Image data was only used in the first step of detection to preserve privacy. The remainder of the data pipeline only required coordinate data.A single point perspective required correction prior to extrapolating real locations from bounding boxes. In addition, a nearest neighbor heuristic was implemented to track occupant locations across frames. Location history was run through a social force model to determine path suggestions.The visualization revolved around individual 'spotlights' of color that follow occupants and project a path forward.These were dynamic gradients that reacted to each other and fluctuated in size according to velocity and path suggestions.The final installation was set up in the Princeton School of Architecture in the winter of 2021.The result was a tangible change in how people interacted in and with the space. We noticed frequent interactions where participants would experiment and play with the reactivity of the signifiers to see how they would change based on different conditions. In these cases, the projections acted as a social mediator – becoming a collective puzzle that led to many spontaneous connections especially in the early days of the installation.At the same time that urgency surrounding social distancing had begun to dip in the public consciousness, we shifted toward an installation that could not only function as a means of mediating space, but also spark serendipitous interaction among people passing through. Looking forward, the ongoing development of this system in Signaux Sociaux seeks to push how suggestions can become more dynamic over the course of a day and even modulate itself within a single larger space.