the intelligent street

the street - harrow
We shall install the intelligent street in the entrances of the University of Westminster Harrow Campus and the Interactive Institute, Sweden - (Malmo or Piteå) from May 2003.

The intelligent street will enhance the experience of users in both locations by creating a gentle sonic playground that reflects the cultures of its users, entertain and act as a talking point.

Users will be able to interract by sending SMS messages from their mobile phone. A display in each location and on the web will give optional information about how users are engaging. Over time, 'intelligent' algorithms will build up a picture or memory of the culture and behaviour of users. Users (students) at Harrow and in Sweden will have the opportunity to design and contribute elements of sound to be incorporated. Success - or otherwise - of the piece will be measured partly by how many people engage with 'the intelligent street' on a daily basis. If interest in the piece declines the piece will quietly disappear. If on the other hand people engage enthusiastically, and users of the space and its surroundings are pleased with its effect, it is envisaged that the piece may continue.


Although the exact design of the system is currently being refined it is likely that users will be able to send SMS commands from a publised menu across categories such as "style, mood, instrumentation, ambiences etc" Once a command is received, the street will respond immediately and play as requested for 2 - 3 minutes.  If more than one command is received it will combine each request into a personalized blend of user's wishes. The music / sound will evolve seamlessly as different users enter the space and interract.
Users not wishing to change the music themselves can offer feedback to the system by sending text commands for "I like it" or "not so good". Genetic algorithms will allow the intellingent street to interpret this feedback and build up a picture of what works and what doesn't.

Web portal

A web portal will allow users to see and listen to activity in either location.

Collaborating team includes:

John Eacott - School of CCI, Harrow Campus: project co-ordinator
Anders-Petter Andersson - Interactive Institute, Malmo University: project designer specialising in 'interactive audience behaviour'
Prof. Mark d'Inverno - Cavendish School of Computer Science: system designer specialising in 'intelligent agents'
Fredrik Olofsson - Freelance designer and composer, Stockholm: project designer and lead system programmer.
Fergus Rougier - Jole Blonde, Freelance sound designer

Hardware requirements: (in each location)

Macintosh G4 with multichannel audio interface
4 x powered speakers (or 2 x stereo pairs)
internet / ethernet connection
dedicated SMS compatible phone line
Webcam and PC for web display

Supported by:

The University of Westminser Harrow Campus and Cavendish School of Computer Science
The Interactive Institute, Sweden

the street

this was an interactive sound installation which ran at the University of Westminster in September 2000. It was designed, composed and programmed by John Eacott and Ross Clement with ultrasound sensors designed by Fairless Masterman. The aim was to create a sort of interactive muzak or nuzak in response to people passing through.
Ultrasound sensors at each end of the street caused a sound signal used to register the amount of human activity. A SuperCollider programme, which lies at the centre of the piece, registers the number and frequency of inputs coming from the sensors and converts this to a density variable. The density variable is used to open up to 8 channels of sound - the more activity the more sound.

Each channel of sound is created using generative processes each 15 minutes. There is a verbal time announcement each 15 minutes which also comments on the level of activity in the street.

hear the time announcement (mp3 152k)
hear an example of street nuzak (mp3 620k)
read more about the street in a paper presented at Generative Art 2000

Some extracts from the comments book filled in by users of the street:

"Brilliant! Well done John and Ross! More please - Lena Augustinson
"interactive music and sound works well in the street good choice of location" Muhammet Gucenmet
"Excellent lets have more!" Graham Evans
"Wicked, where the rave?" Luke T
"nice idea keep it up!" Theo Petriotis
"are people aware that they are interacting?" E
"don't get rid of it" Emma Mihill
"It makes the street a lot more atmospheric and is intriguingly inspirational" Pete Abbott
"there should be music always" Sylvia Baldu
"nice, do you do birthday parties?" Bob Sinclair
"I love the fragility of the sound as it seeps into the space now and again" Jerry Mulvey
"keep it there, it's good" Rich
"I wish people  would do stuff like this that brightens up a small part of peoples's time, and puts a smile on people's faces" Owen
"I like it a lot, very good, it makes you to stop and to think, and it's a good sensation. keep doing things!!" Izaskum
"Its not loud enough! Doesn't seem very ambient! Need more noise!" Craig
"It makes me feel like Im Snake from Metal Gear Solid which is nice!" Rob
"MASTER Piece" Pegue
"I really enjoyed it but felt like organising some collective action." Jean Seaton