Voice of Red Hook: An Augmented Reality Project
Interaction Design / Augmented Reality / Strategy / Design Research/ App
Evie Cheung, Eugenia Ramos, Xuan Wang, Kevin Cook
MFA Products of Design
School of Visual Arts, 2018
Strategist, UX/UI, branding and pitch design.
Voices of Red Hook is a project that uses augmented reality as a community feedback mechanism.
Voices of Red Hook has two main components: 1) a physical mural and 2) an app/augmented reality experience. The mural is painted by local artists and displays various images of local residents who have chosen to share their stories and concerns. With a smartphone, a user sees the mural and then scans one of the many faces from the neighborhood to watch the face and story of that resident come to life through AR. The user is then prompted to react to the story through a series of civically-minded questions, allowing Voices of Red Hook to poll and aggregate community concerns so that the community can better advocate for their collective concerns. It aims to produce a dialogue that the community can have with its local representatives and government to more efficiently and productively solve community concerns. Participants’ answers are collected to inspire the community to make collective decisions about political issues
The current community in Red Hook has concerns about climate change after Hurricane Sandy, however, they have other more pressing concerns as well like safety, affordability and education in the area. Many residents feel as though their concerns aren’t heard and they don’t have anyone to turn to who they believe will listen or actually do something.
The original design brief for this project asked us to use VR or AR to address climate change in Red Hook. Our research started with a site visit to our neighborhood of focus: Red Hook, Brooklyn. This visit helped us gain a better understanding of the local geography and current infrastructure. We also conducted preliminary intercept interviews with residents. How might we address climate change and other Red Hook community concerns in a way that makes people interact, care and stay involved?
This project began investigating how to address climate change in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook. The team conducted secondary research into the effects of Hurricane Sandy and began prototyping an augmented reality experience that would help people become more aware of probable flooding and climate concerns that will occur in Red Hook, so that they could make a decision about how to best prepare for the damage. The team went to Red Hook and interviewed various residents on the concept, to test the prototype and to learn about the neighborhood concerns and who they would want the project to form partnerships with for the project.
After interviewing various residents of Red Hook it became clear that most were aware of climate change and the damage that may occur in their neighborhood but that they had far too many pressing issues to deal with before thinking about climate change. One interviewee talked about how she was stopped by police walking to school multiple times because of her race, and that she didn’t feel safe. Another resident talked about how hard it was to pay rent as the neighborhood was becoming more gentrified and many talked about the difficulty expressing concerns to any city officials. From these interviews the team reshaped the product from a climate change awareness tool, to instead, a community feedback mechanism that would allow residents to share concerns and stories and then present them to local officials for action.
An Augmented Reality Community Project
Voices of Red Hook is a community mural that is paired with augmented reality to tell stories of various concerns within the neighborhood and that also functions as a feedback mechanism that can be used to address community issues at public meetings and forums. The appropriate use of technology is crucial; it should never be superfluous. In this case, our objective was to use AR as a vehicle for storytelling and platform for community feedback. As a technology, augmented reality (AR) has the following properties:
1) Digital Tangibility: AR can add a visible layer to the existing physical world.
2) Site-Specificity: It needs a specific visual trigger to be activated. Therefore, it is site-specific.
3) Access: AR experiences can be accessed through a smartphone. Because smartphone penetration is prevalent across socioeconomic and racial groups, it makes AR one of the most accessible rising technologies.