Street Portals: Urban User Interface 'Test Bed' Prototype for Bike Shares

Jason Germany, University of Oregon



The objective of this research project is to develop a user interface “test bed” to measure the role of touchscreen kiosks with community connectivity. This interface test bed will apply the knowledge of interface design to the domain of public transit kiosks, with a particular focus on bike share stations. The value of this research is the ability to generate user feedback between community members using urban experiences. Safety, effectiveness and community connectivity of public transit is enhanced with this information interface. This report explains the test bed kiosk’s design, physical build, and hardware and software testing. User interaction studies for standards, accessibility and design criteria were done; 2D and 3D modeling, material sourcing and mockups were built. Hardware sensors for proximity included passive infrared (PIR), ultrasonic range finding and RGB-D technology using Microsoft Kinect. Tests measured interaction with user movement type, including the differentiation of pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. Observed interaction tests were performed with human subjects review approval.


In an ever evolving digital world, layers and layers of data are continuously generated as a result of the increasingly pervasive numbers of computational devices found in the modern urban environment.  These devices are no longer institutional instruments deployed by various municipalities but also personal platforms such as mobile phones and laptops.  The growth of this heterogeneous data coupled with continuously expanding networks has allowed for these data sets to be used in planning and design of urban spaces.  To complement those efforts, our research seeks to capitalize on this increase of data by taking an abstract concept and making it tangible, accessible, and actionable to the average person in an urban environment thus allowing individual citizens to contribute to and use this data infrastructure.  To make this new urban infrastructure visible, our work seeks to provide platforms for human street-level interaction.  These platforms have the opportunity to act as a portal or hub of engagement between user(s), communities, and the city as a whole.  In particular, these points of interaction will have the ability to display dynamic and real-time information about the city including services (private, government), locomotion and navigation, as well as emergency notifications.  As places, communities, and services are constantly evolving within the urban landscape, existing static street-level displays and wayfinding (maps, notice boards, etc.) do not support the ‘dynamic behavioral’ qualities that are exhibited in cities – our work seeks to change that.

Although it may appear to be a natural transition to go from static urban displays to dynamic touch-screen user interfaces, the challenge in deploying interactive kiosks is not just one of hardware but that of software as well.  Specifically the design of the actual software based interface that users will come to engage with at a street-level (bike share).  When a system has access to vast layers of data, the true challenge becomes the presentations and filtering at the user interface level so as to display information that is contextually relevant to the user’s needs and wants in a particular location.  To that end, our current and past research has been centered on the cataloging of urban criteria so as to develop a ‘persona’ or personalized filtering system for urban data sets.  Through this taxonomy, an individual user that falls within a certain category (e.g. visitor, commuter) will have a partially customized interface experience that better supports their goals and activities when utilizing a bike share as a form of transportation.  The software system will utilize our ongoing classification of urban experiences named the Urban Genome project that has been developed using literature from urban design experts and from first-hand empirical data recorded and analyzed from cities in Oregon and as well as other countries. Criteria for suggesting urban experiences with also include safe routes and public service warnings based on real-time conditions such as weather.

The development of a ‘test bed’ is critical to validating this system of personalized user interfaces.  For that reason, we have solicited funds through the NITC Small Starts 2013 so as to build an interactive touch-screen bike share kiosk prototype.  This grant would allow us to move forward with various usability tests centered on some of the key hypotheses that we are developing in the area of public connectivity in an urban space.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
October 31,2014
UTC Grant Cycle:
Tier 1 Small Starts Round 1
UTC Funding:

Other Products

  • Germany, J. O., Speranza, P., & Anthony, D. Eliciting Public Display Awareness and Engagement: An Experimental Study and Semantic Strategy. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction. (PUBLICATION)
  • Public vs. Private Space: Exploring Private Interactions in Street-Level Displays (PRESENTATION)