If you’re an old hat at using public transit, or someone trying frantically to go site-seeing, in the bustling, historic cities of Europe, you’ll know how important bus information can be.

Bus stops, as we know them, are about to get a makeover. They’re not just for use as a goal for small dogs anymore. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT have developed a networked, environmentally adaptive communications system to bring mass transit into the 21st century.

It’s the Eyestop from MIT Senseable Lab. Oh, and this isn’t just a concept. The new system will start being installed in Florence, Italy in 2010. We caught up with Giovanni de Niederhausern of the MIT Eyestop development team to ask him some questions about the design and get some more images of the idea. Here’s what he had to say.

What was the goal to accomplish for the project?
For what it concerns the design, the goal was to obtain a parametric and flexible system; we call it the ‘info tape’, a system that snakes itself in the city, rises up as a pole or as a shelter. It was really important to find out a strong information design to make people understand easily which bus and in how much time is approaching. A blinking system and e-ink displays helped us with this.

Was sketching or 3D CAD used in the conceptualization process?
We brainstormed a lot, using mostly sketches by hand. We use Rhinoceros for our 3D model.

What was the most time intensive part of the design?
I think the first and the last. The brainstorming at the beginning, the visualization in the end. But you have to understand that the technology is the most important part in the project, we work mostly on technologies and interface.

Here’s some more photos of the interface. It’s described as “a bus stop like an i-phone” complete with wi-fi enabled touch-sensitive control screens, web access, planning tools, route information and more interactive usability all on flexible e-ink displays. This is powered partially through solar panels atop the structures and provides environmental data and conditions as well.

The bus system will first be installed throughout the city of Florence(Firenze), most likely integrated with the ATAF bus line and other Italian site-seeing sites. It’s a touch of modern in the historic city that depends on public transportation for it’s communities and visitors.



Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.