Urban Echoes

Urban Echoes was a temporary park lighting installation which provided urban information in the form of colourful lighting for park-goers. With their mobile devices, participants could make inquiries about current Events and the real-time Activity levels of different districts in the city centre, and receive an answer visualised as light playing on the surfaces of the path and the surrounding trees. The same information was readable as graphical and textual representations on their mobile devices. The third part of the mobile service – Lighting – provided real-time information on the current status of lighting in the park and its energy use. The mobile services were accessible from the park through QR codes situated on the site.

The installation was implemented with LED luminaires suspended above a path through the park and positioned on the ground near trees and bushes. The selection of lights consisted of RGB spotlights with varying beam angles and 3000K LED luminaires with efficient street lighting optics. In addition to developing and testing the communicative park lighting system, the aim of this real world demo was to study different scenarios of adaptive park lighting from the perspective of a park visitor’s experience, employing the algorithmic design tool developed in our project. For this purpose, the park lighting was designed as a flexible system which was programmed to produce both even distributions of light and more uneven distributions consisting of different sized patches of light on the surface of the path. The lighting reacted to park visitors’ movements via a network of motion sensors, pursuant to control algorithms designed in the research project.

In the default adaptive park lighting mode, which was the lighting situation in the park when neither of the two-minute long informative lighting presentations was switched on, the lighting reacted to movement with lively patterns, illuminating both people’s walking routes and the surrounding trees. The base colour of the lighting was warm white to create a comfortable atmosphere in the wintery city. This was complemented with animated dots of colour which indicated the temperature level of the day, pursuant to a colour-temperature scale where cold blue tones expressed low temperatures and warmer, magenta and red tones expressed higher temperatures.

The Web-Based Mobile Service of Urban Echoes allowed users to make queries for urban information for the park lighting to display. These informative lighting presentations did not react to the movements of visitors. In the lighting scheme for ‘Activity’ service park luminaires were representing the layout of different activity hotspots in the city, receiving the indicating intensity of red colour. These activity hotspots were sensored by the UBI sensor network detecting Bluetooth-equipped devices, and were displayed as red dots with varying intensities of red colour on the map in mobile device. In ‘Events’ service, the amount of the ongoing events and the ones which are starting within two hours were displayed in categories with theme colours on mobile device. In the resulting lighting scheme, luminaires reproduced the amount of different events as dots of thematically coloured lights. Both of those lighting situations were presented by ‘Lighting’ mobile service as light dots on the park map and as energy consumption graphs.

The installation situated in Otto Karhi park in the core centre of Oulu, on a rather inactive park path. For a couple of months, the seldom-used park path transformed into an attractive urban space, where families had evening promenades, people were photographing and doing “cosplay”, having picnic by the path in the freezing temperature, or even dancing in the rhythm of light.

The demo provided us with an abundance of valuable research material, which is being analysed and will be published in a series of conference and journal articles.