Friday Roundup: Virtual Edition

This post was very nearly called “Friday Roundup: Saturday Edition,” but I pulled it together just in time. Once again I’ve compiled a few of the most interesting pieces on cities, transit, and urbanism I’ve read this week. This week I stuck with a very digital theme, featuring articles ranging from video game cities to a really amazing data visualization of Boston’s MBTA. Work (the one that pays) has ended up in the way of writing this week and it will do so again for the next, but I hope to pick up the pace of writing after that, so if you like what you’ve read so far there is much more on the way.

From Watch Dogs to GTA V, why ‘video games are going to reshape our cities“‘ – from The Guardian Cities

Cities have centered in art for thousands of years, but video games have the potential to take that representation to a new peak – we don’t have to limit ourselves to a static artistic representation of an existing city, or even a magnificent city imagined by someone else’s brain. Imagine the combination of the limitless potential of sim-style games fused with character and story. They will never be able to mirror the full sensory experience of wandering around a new city for the first time, but could provide a truly amazing tribute, a work of art.

Wright believes open-world developers are taking the wrong approach entirely. “You look at GTA, and this amazing world Rockstar have created, and it’s all hand-built,” he says. “An evolutionary process didn’t lead to Los Santos: it was 300 artists studying pictures, building models. They’re just painting a portrait of a neighbourhood. It only gets you so far.” That way of thinking, he says, hinders developers from bridging the gap between static (if beautifully rendered) city backdrops and true, dynamic simulations. Rather, he envisions games that work like evolution: an open-ended, unpredictable system. The challenge is how to make such a thing compatible with the personalised drama, all those sagas of rogue gangsters, cops and assassins so crucial to drawing in the player.

You Might Soon Be Able to Watch Netflix on Amtrak” – from The Atlantic Citylab

A step in the right direction (and one that makes me feel prophetic). It seems like a small thing, but the ability to binge-watch your favorite show during a long train trip could make all the difference for many people when booking travel.

Amtrak first began offering free wifi to riders on its fastest service, the Acela, four years ago. The city-skipping executives who make up that service’s ridership reacted at first with celebration, but by popular account have since soured. In 2012, the wifi received the ultimate in coastal elite rebukes: It was the subject of New York Times trend story. “The wireless service,” the Grey Lady sighed, citing annoyed laptop users, “has become a symbol of the problematic state of train travel in the Internet era.”

Visualizing MBTA Data

A really amazing data visualization project from two WPI grad students. It features full analysis of Boston’s Red, Blue, and Orange lines. In an unsurprising turn of events the MBTA doesn’t have real-time train information for the Green line yet, but they expect it in 2015. If it follows the standard delay of your average Green line train, we can expect it by 2020 – but it might be packed full and you’ll have to wait for the next one.

When you look back at the Marey diagram, the slope of each line tells you how fast a train is going and the time it takes to get between stations. When all of the start and stop times are lined up you can see a drastic variation in the time it takes to get between stops throughout the day. If you have ever ridden the subway during rush hour then you have experienced what the steep lines in the Marey diagram feel like first-hand.

What causes these delays? It’s hard to know for sure, but it appears that number of people riding the subway is a factor.

London Now Has a Robot Sculpture You Can Sleep In” – from The Atlantic Citylab

I have nothing more to say about this.

So what’s it like to stay inside? Photos right now are scarce, but according to the artist’s description it might be something akin to being buried inside a refrigerator box. When the lights are shut off, Gormley intends the space to encourage retrospective thinking, much like a sensory-deprivation tank.


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