Future of Transportation – Futurists Twitter Chat Thursday 4:00-5:00 EST #apf #futrchat #transit

The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is hosting its fourth twitter chat  on Thursday, January 20, 2011 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. EST. hashtag: #futrchat. You can find information about the first three here . (education, money, work) 

Is 21st c transportation just more of the same?


During the 20

th century, transportation innovations exploded. You might even call it the century of transportation. We not only invented new types of vehicles; we created new infrastructure and new lifestyles celebrating them. Technology transformed from walking and animals to bikes, boats, trains, cars, trucks, buses, planes, and spaceships. I even adore some oddities like dirigibles and segways.

High speed transportation is sexy, no doubt about it. We have a love affair with these coolest new gadgets. And it’s cost us immeasurably. Cars in particular caused new development to stretch further and further from city centers. And they use fossil fuels. Both are now seen as huge mistakes.

Embedded as transportation is with energy and politics, arguments in the US may wage battle well into midcentury. Meantime developing countries aim for that middle class image, wanting cars before decent housing and causing traffic jams that last for days. But that’s now.

We want to talk 2020, 2030, 2050 – what will be our needs, what constraints, and what options will we have for transportation?  What does mobility mean in twenty or thirty years?


Backlash and penalties

Slow cities, car free cities, transit oriented development, walkability, smart growth, density, and so many other urban trends tie to strategies to reduce the influence of the car on our lives.

One massive debate is: better cars or live car-free? In fact, better cars such as electric do little to reduce greenhouse gases unless we have power plants that produce renewable energy.

It’s easy to see transportation as a topic of things; vehicles are objects. However, they are deeply integral to our daily lives, affecting how we behave, our friends, where we live and work, how healthy we are, even our personal identities. Are you a walker, a rider, a driver, a co-user, or a telecommuter?


Transportation 21

st century style

How will we travel in 2030 or 2040? What is the impact of the internet, telecommuting, and social media? How will augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence change transportation options? How will transportation be different in mega-cities, smaller cities, towns, rural, across the globe, or into outerspace?

What new technologies could transform the way that we travel and commute? What is the impact of life safety, security, and crime on transportation? What new infrastructures are worth the expense and trouble to build? Will sharing bikes and cars go mainstream? Will there be a crash or a wimper after peak oil? What aboutautonomous vehicles, robotics, and road trains? And (wincing), what’s holding back flying cars and jetpacks?


Will transportation transform our lives as it did in the 20

th century? Will we become smarter about choices and their consequences?  Will we choose to ‘un-tech’ our mobility?  Will we choose to stay still?

I bookmarked almost 200 links on the future of transportationhere and 140 on transithere

Please Join Us – an open tweet chat

You are welcome to join the APF #futrchat and voice your views on the future of transportation. We’ve hosted chats on the future of education, the future of money, and the future of work. These chats are fast and intense. I always learn enormously, like scanning futurists brains.

Jennifer Jarratt and I will co-host; Jennifer with intriguing questions and I with ideas, more questions, and retweets. You can do the same, add links (if they pertain and are not promotional ads), and help us think more clearly, more vividly about the future of transportation.  

What do you think about the future of transportation?

Join us on Twitter by searching for #futrchat. Please use #futrchat in your tweets, and the Question #, as Q1, Q2, Q3 etc. 

As alternative to twitter.com, here are two sites where you join the chat.

Images:Nissan Torii,Shweeb monorail 



Architects, Cities, and Virtual Reality at #AIA2010


Thanks to the WorldViz booth, architects at the American Institute of Architects Convention in Miami can experience virtual reality through heads-on display goggles. I have extreme virtual/augmented reality envy! (thank you Lira Luis @liraluis for the twitpic!)

Virtual reality creates a whole new world – such as Second Life. Augmented reality overlays digital images and data in the real world.

We will love these functions, I think. Imagine the things you can see on your computer screen but now they will appear as overlays in real life. Eventually, the headset will be smaller, lighter. In the future, you’ll just wear glasses or contact lenses.

So don’t imagine wearing a clunky headset when you visit a job site. That  s purely 2010.

I did a presentation for London architects and engineers on augmented reality; here’s my slideshow  . Notice there’s several ways to experience augmented reality, from using mobile apps to heads-on display. There’s even rooms where the images create the sense of space, they surround and envelop you. For instance, your body actually believes going down stairs.

Yesterday, Design Observer   featured a two part article titled “Sense of Place: A World of Augmented Reality.” It’s a theoretical look at the changes AR makes to our understanding of cities.     

BTW, I have more than a passing interest.  I am researching and writing a book on social tech, architecture and cities that will feature augmented reality. Already people are using Layar and other apps to change their experiences of cities.

How soon will we be using it in our offices? Good question.

WorldViz says it’s today. Universities look to be a target market with discounted pricing. Large firms and early adopters can jump in.  

Think of VR/AR as more than a presentation tool – it’s an experience. We can involve people instead of making them spectators at our table. Truly, a technology to celebrate.

Image Credit: Lira Luis @liraluis twitpic at AIA convention

What’s Next for 21st Century Cities? Part 1



The Futurist magazinehttp://www.wfs.org/futurist.htm published their Outlook 2010 this month with forecasts in ten domains. Somehow none of the areas focus exclusively on cities or architecture, despite the fact that the world for the first time in history is now more urban than rural.

In fact, I would call this the urban century. One of the most critical issues we are facing is how to live in and create great cities.

No doubt, historically there are times when cities were truly spectacular – Athens, Rome, Rome again, Florence to name a few. They pulsed with culture, commerce, and a sense of community.

Then technology aided industrialization and automobiles, and now globalization and social networking. Cities are simply more complicated now. Actually that’s true about life all the way around.

Yet, even now, sometimes we build something brilliant. New York City’s Central Park, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Sydney Opera House, Beijing Olympics. At a particular moment, communities create genius in built form. Even with all the forces that tear us in multiple directions, it’s possible.

Lifting ideas from The Futurists’ prognostications and modifying them for 21st century communities, here are ten forecasts that will shape cities. I added comments in italics.


1.      Colorful Solar Energy: MIT devised thin solar film that amounts to paint so translucent it can do double-duty as tinted windows.

2.      Flooded Coastal Cities: If we see 14 degrees centigrade warming, the oceans would rise 75 meters, which puts every coastal city at risk. Actually, I would modify this to far lower figures, say 2-6 meters, based on research, but still with devastating possibilities.http://bit.ly/2ZeePC  Heavier storm patterns will also increase damage, including risks to river cities.


3.      Local Fragmentation. Local governments will exert more influence than national governments. Brookings Institute notes that fragmented metropolitan regions with multiple small municipalities damage the area’s ability to collaborate and attract jobs.http://bit.ly/bTdl6

4.      China’s Ascent. China, maybe Russia, will join the US as leading world powers by 2025. As the EU gains a unified voice, it will become a member of this group.


5.      Healthy Cities. Cliff Moughtin, Urban Design, cites urban gardens and walkability as improvements to quality of life. Example: Freiburg, Germany.http://bit.ly/3TaRFE I would add the slow cityhttp://bit.ly/4hshXh and new urbanist movements.

6.      Car-Free Cities. Electronic sensors in Singapore charge cars as they enter the city. Paris aims to cut auto traffic by 40% by 2020, replaced with bikes.

7.      Suburban Woes. As energy costs soar, districts with spread-out services will spend more in transportation. That is, unless they build public transit and infill to create density, and address problems of aging infrastructure and next-generation residents as urban cores have learned.

Health and Medicine

8.      Sensors and Nano-technology. Health monitoring and even minor diagnosis and procedures will be done virtually, placing an additional duty on houses, especially bathrooms and kitchens. Furthermore, hospitals will be modified accordingly, shrinking examination rooms and beds while adding clinics.

Information Society

9.      Augmented Reality. Sensors, digital maps, and real-time data combine with social media to enrich our experience of cities.http://bit.ly/1y7rqI

10.     Telecommuting. US jobs filled by telecommuters could increase four-fold to 19 million by 2012. That many folks may have partial telecommuting in two years. Reduced road infrastructure could save $5 billion and wed recapture 1.5 billion commute hours. Changes to cities without rush-hour commuting would be enormous. Residences become base-camps for work and living, and neighborhoods – urban or suburban – become 24/7 communities.

That’s ten changes that apply to cities from the first five areas that The Futurist covered. They had many other points under these headings; I selected based on relevancy to cities.

Tomorrow I will add items from the second portion of their 2010 forecast. That post will cover: Lifestyles and Values, Science and Technology, Work and Careers, and World Affairs. http://bit.ly/1oLozQ

And looking at the list – where are robotics, geo-engineering, smart infrastructure, diffused energy, public space, public art, sacred places, tribal communities, local/global connections, prefabrication, mega-cities, slums, security issues, and urban farming to name a few?

Really, how could 21st century communities not be at the top of their list??  


Will Filtering Reality Build Communities or Fortresses?


While Jamais Cascio is concerned that we will block people we don’t like and live behind blinders that hide contrary ideologies, I think that we might use augmented reality to change our common landscape and city scapes.

What if we can choose what buildings we see? or what the buildings look like? Its a little like colors. I assume that you see red like I see red, but I can only trust our word descriptors. From then on, its a shared cultural reaction that red is a fighting color, a vibrant dress, or a shade of holiday seasons. We know what we mean when we say “he’s seeing red!”

What if you like a red Eiffel Tower and I prefer it in purple? We might stop fighting urban ugliness, and start changing our browser filters to omit signs or trash heaps or sprawling parking lots. The junk will exist, we just wont perceive it.

Perceived, Conceived, and Lived-In Spaces

Henri Lefebrve, an urban sociologist, described our different ways of knowing the world as physical, mental and social realities. We sense or perceive the physical world, conceive or represent mental space like maps and photos, and interpret social lived-in space. Our experience of a place combines all three.

In dense cities, people share sidewalks and subways. However, distinct districts, daily practices, and private transportation separate us and allows each person to know the city a little differently. An architect knows the city differently than a truck driver or a mayor.

Bridging Gulfs or Building Forts?

Augmented reality has the potential to enlarge that gulf, or to reduce it. We could use the digital overlays to communicate more publicly and share our experiences. In this way, we might actually have more in common with people who cross our paths.

While sitting at a stop light, many tweets could be seen, interactions might happen, something deeper than “you #%(%)@I((“. I might spot a bird, post a link, or share a song. (Not my singing of course!)

Augmented reality has the potential to place us in bunkers and forts. Or we can build communities that have greater ties and understanding.

Those are our choices in the future. Seems to me that the conversation of transparency, access, and fairness will test us all, because what previously was simply supplied to us or the purview of a city or a company will become increasingly our individual responsibility.

Some Folks Already Get It, Others Will Hold Out for More Proof

Really, our cities and our lives are already deeply changed. And it is just beginning. Augmented reality is simply another form of social media. Folks that get the meaning of social media, the early adopters, will also see the usefulness and pitfalls of augmented reality.

Augmented Reality: Dream App or Disaster for Cities?

FrewenWuellner AR.ppt
Download this file


Today I had the pleasure of speaking to Be2Camp Working Buildings in London, courtesy of Martin Brown @fairsnape, an inspiring green building expert. Here’s a recap of my session Dream App or Disaster for Cities?? Here is my slide show; its also on slideshare. http://bit.ly/1OARTB

Augmented reality (AR) will change the way that people use cities, and consequently the way that we build cities and buildings.

Vernor Vinge in Rainbows End explored 2025 San Diego where architecture became primitive Quonset huts that were experienced through AR as elaborate neo-classical monuments. An extreme outcome, no doubt some buildings may be stripped of quality materials, replaced by digitized imagery. Uses of AR in buildings and cities are emerging; its time for building pros to get immersed in the conversation.

While AR can be defined narrowly as layers of information over the real world, that view is from the information technology perspective. Building professionals can better use AR if we see it as the link between objects and people, a way of “enlivening” buildings and cities. In effect, AR gives buildings a voice. Furthermore, we extend ourselves into the environment with AR. (see McCullough diagram, Slide 38).

In short, AR wakes up buildings to everyone in the way that they have always been in the foreground for AEC pros. Suddenly everyone knows history, data, uses of different places, the information that was previously in the realm of experts or locals. And it puts the people who use buildings and cities into the foreground for those of us who merely see the multitude of technical issues.

Slide 19. AR has the potential to:

  1. Make invisible things visible. Data, people, history, stories about a place can be tagged to it and then can be manipulated to find aggregated patterns such as in maps.
  2. AR gives power to people and paradoxically takes it away. We gain information and are drowned by it, so trusted voices and analysis become even more critical. Plus we lose control of privacy, such as in the case of London surveillance cameras.
  3. The more virtual becomes real, the less difference there is between virtual and real. If we think virtual has the same qualities as real space, we will substitute them without thinking. Right now, we are most aware of augmentation technology because it is so awkward and novel. However, in the future, they will become invisible. We will in effect internalize it.

Slide 46, 48. Three consequences that will change the way that we build cities are sensors, co-creating, and virtual/real choices.

  1. Sensors. Data from fixed sensors and from people will inform us regarding patterns of behavior, energy, etc. Will we monitor our neighbor’s green choices? Will some uses be higher taxed, like a luxury tax? Green building in particular will benefit from augmented reality, because sustainability data will become social.
  2. Co-creating. Preliminary plans will be shared by city planning departments for review. Rather than appearing in person at long, difficult meetings, people will be able to participate in city planning from the comfort of their home. Multiple suggestions may flood development decisions. If people know how much a development will cost in terms of public infrastructure, will we veto it? AEC professionals will have new skills and responsibilities.
  3. Virtual/Real Trade-offs. Stronger virtual connections make mobility optional instead of necessary. Particularly as commutes are cumbersome and expensive, travel will be by choice rather than by mandate for work. The experience becomes paramount.

Since we build cities based on plans about 10-20 years ahead, we need to stay involved in how augmented reality influences behavior and how people view cities. Some cities will grasp the opportunities and shape AR while others will be left behind. 

The first part (slides 4-19) of the presentation defines AR, the second part (20-41) gives visual examples, and the third part (42-49) addresses consequences for cities, particularly for AEC professionals. Let me know if you want more explanation or have ideas about my approach.

Thanks to Martin and his colleagues for hosting this fantastic un-conference, the second in London on sustainable building. It was a delight to be a part of it. I will be writing more about AR and love to hear what people are thinking about it or using it.