CityScope Featured in Presidential Report on Technology and the Future of Cities

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The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) recently published "Technology and the Future of Cities Report to the President" that highlighted the CityScope Project developed by Ira Winder.  Excerpt from the Report:

City dashboards that utilize data feeds from open and closed sources have become increasingly common within city governments. Mayors use them as a barometer of urban performance across many dimensions including levels of congestion, pollution, crime, noise, waste, and even pothole repairs. Although some are open source and accessible to anyone with an Internet connection, these tools are typically designed for experts, are often one off solutions, utilize only low-resolution data, and do not fully utilize standards to enable scaling. Cities attempting to regenerate neighborhoods have begun to invest in Innovation Districts, in some cases empowered with special economic zone status. This presents a new opportunity for cities to leverage urban data (e.g., through the City Web) to create a new set of tools that can be applied to Urban Development Districts (UDDs) to maximize their benefit. The CityScope project developed by the City Science Initiative at MIT Media Lab is a data-driven, interactive, tangible, 3D urban observatory and urban decision support system (DSS) designed to engage non-expert stakeholders for city development. 

As a three-dimensional urban observatory the CityScope combines physical scale models (made of LEGO bricks) and 3D projections of urban digital data to form a hybrid physical-virtual reality platform that enables multiple stakeholders to engage in urban decision-making. The CityScope has two modes of interaction. The first is passive observation and the second is active, participatory planning. In observation mode, the CityScope visualizes urban data sets, real-time traffic flows, and social media as well as simulated data such as energy consumption or solar access, so that the users can toggle between information layers (see Figure 1). This allows users of the CityScope to identify potential challenges and opportunities when optimizing existing urban systems. 

Figure 1: CityScope with satellite data, Twitter user activity, wind flow simulation, and mobility networks (clockwise starting from upper left). 

Figure 1: CityScope with satellite data, Twitter user activity, wind flow simulation, and mobility networks (clockwise starting from upper left). 

In active mode, the CityScope allows users to physically move elements of the platform (such as buildings or roads) to simulate alternative urban outcomes. For example, if a user moves buildings onto an empty site, then the CityScope will visualize the corresponding increase in the population density and the effects on traffic, energy use, and the demand on city services (see Figure 2). 

Figure 2: CityScope Interactive platform.