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Physical Computing – Lesson#3 – Observation


For this week’s interaction observation assignment I chose to focus on the LinkNYC booth that was recently statued close to my home, since I found the device to be an interesting case study that blurs the lines of it’s seemingly main use.


Interaction observation:

I chose to focus my observation study on a young couple’s interaction with the machine over a period of approx. one minute. The man equipped with a camera, and the woman holding a water bottle and a bag approached the machine and instantly started touching the screen. After tapping the screen once a map appeared then the woman looked into the screen observing as the man moves his fingers on the screen and the map moves. After about 20 seconds of moving his fingers on the screen the man pointed over to 72nd St. and started a conversation with the woman, in which she had started pointing in the other direction. As they converse, they often refer back at the screen for reference until they start walking towards 72nd St.

My first assumption was the couple are tourists visiting the city and exploring it. Secondly but probably more importantly, seems the couple initially approached the device due to it’s similarity of a handheld smartphone device in both design and interface. Since they most likely have some experience with the device’s ‘interaction language’ the use of it stated right as they approached it, i.e very short learning curve.

Connecting this interaction observation to Bret Victor’s ‘A Brief Rant On The Future Of Interaction Design’ definition of a tool by stating it addresses human needs by amplifying human capabilities, seems the LinkNYC booth might be very suitable for that category. The man’s ability to orient around NYC is limited by his knowledge of the city’s neighborhoods, streets and routes and in this sense, it seems given the booth location is actually on the street, it’s able to amplify his orientation by providing the missing knowledge. Furthermore, seems Victor’s approach that uses our hands as the means to interact with future interfaces, LinkNYC gains a lot by people’s familiarity with  interface and bundled applications, making the touch screen choice the perfect one in that sense.

General observation notes:

  • The machine itself is a rather noticeably big metal container with ad spaces on both sides facing the street and a bevel in which there is a touch screen, a metal numeric keyboard and a headphone jack.
  • The device has multiple features – free WiFi distributer, built-in tablet and a charging port to name the most popular ones.
  • It seems the device was conceptualised with an idea of solving two main types of problems at first, free NYC WiFi network and an information hub for people (maps, internet browser were the most common).  With that in mind it helps solve both a local problem for NY residents but also helps tourist orient in the city.


Hi I am Or, I am a director, developer and artist. My current interest in research is sound interaction, computer vision & immersive media development.

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