Intersection Interaction: An Alternative Augmentation?
As I observed the sorts of interactions that took place within the 5th St./Spring St. intersection, I clearly saw that crossing the intersection was the main objective of the space. From walking to riding and driving, distracted or alert, law-abiding or not, many sorts of users crossed through the intersection. For drivers, there are big, clearly visible lights hung at the top of the intersection to indicate what to do, making that signaling very clear. However, for pedestrians, the signage can sometimes be less clear. The crosswalk light is smaller than traffic lights, and mounted around head level so that in a crowd it would be more difficult to see. Additionally, the space doesn’t take advantage of using any auditory cues for the intersection, which I believe would make the interface much more versatile and accessible.
As I observed pedestrians crossing the intersection, I began to notice a few trends. First, many users were multitasking, whether looking at their phone screens or listening to some sort of audio through headphones or earbuds. Many waited for the crosswalk light to change in order to walk, but some watched and walked according to traffic, while others waited until the people in front of them started moving. An interface through sound might help to unify the experience for pedestrians in the interface. A distinct audio cue might grab someone’s attention while listening or looking at something else, and for people with visual impairments an auditory indication would be a great help.
A few different aspects would have to be taken into account to successfully integrate an audio system into the intersection. First, the voice would have to be carefully tailored to be distinct in pitch and tone to all the other possible sounds in the intersection in order to be intelligible. In addition, as mentioned in Chapter 4 of Wired For Speech, the voice’s personality would have to be designed in such a way as to be most accepted generally, since many different users in different emotional states pass through the space daily. In order to maintain some amount of isolation of the sound to the pedestrians aiming to cross the intersection, a system using “speakers” like these would be effective: