exploring
Squirrel Hill

This kiosk uses voice recognition to recommend day trips in Squirrel Hill as a means of rediscovering places in the neighborhood. Routes and establishments are tailored according to party, personas, and duration, while recommendations are based on undiscovered gems locals frequent.

Team: Carolyn Zhou ↗ , Alex Tsai ↗
Role: User Interface, User Experience

Squirrel Hill, East of Oakland in Pittsburgh, is a residential area that's a one stop shop for entertainment, food, and shopping. It holds a diverse population, evidenced by the fact that those who visit Squirrel Hill can just as easily get hotcakes as they can get soup dumplings. The busiest area of Squirrel Hill is Forbes Avenue, and although Squirrel Hill extends far beyond that, it becomes an unfamiliar territory very quickly. Recognizing this, we wanted to create a navigation system that orients and connects parts of Squirrel Hill.

After surveying favorite destinations for college students in the area, we found that a majority of college students frequent the same few places in Squirrel Hill. In consideration of the audience we're trying to reach, we used group size and personas as a basis for personalization. Based on a list of establishments collected from Yelp and by visiting on foot, we created three personas to characterize activities available in the neighborhood. Because Squirrel Hill has a big variety of food, many of which are hidden and highly underrated, we knew to create a foodie persona. The foodie persona plans the day around each meal. Similarly, the entertainment persona does activities like watching movies and bowling. The intellect persona visits places like book stores and record shops. We also categorized occasions based on number of people visiting Squirrel Hill together: family, friends, date, or solo.

Beyond mapping out the information behind the system, we needed to figure out what kind of interaction and experience would maximize accessibility for all visitors of Squirrel Hill. Although an app would be able to most efficiently cater to everyone visiting Squirrel Hill, making users download an app just to navigate the neighborhood would only deter users. We quickly started to hone in on kiosks as a means of navigating the neighborhood. Kiosks are accessible to everyone, and because most get off at the same bus stop when entering Squirrel Hill, it was easy to find a central location where the kiosk could be placed. We also decided to opt for audio input as the way of interacting with the kiosk because touch screens can often be tarnished by weather and dulled by overuse. We also set up questions to receive one-word responses, making there less of an opportunity for mishap. We used P5.js and its audio library to use voice as a means of navigating the interface. 

Visually, the interface uses friendly circles bouncing across the screen to indicate interactivity and playfulness. Every step gives simple and clear instructions for users to move on from one to the next. Moving dots on the bottom of every screen also indicate that the kiosk is picking up on the user’s voice, minimizing possible anxieties and creating constant feedback. We were careful to allow users to back out at every step of the process, in full anticipation of drop off as questions process. When the user finds a route that is satisfactory, a QR code is given to bring up Google Maps on the user's phone and direct users on their route.