ecoCollage

This is a multi-user Tangible User Interface system designed for community level, collaborative, and iterative planning to mitigate surface flooding in Chicago. Participants are able to explore & test the effects of various green infrastructure (GI) elements within a specific neighborhood by placing game tiles onto a projection of that area's topography. The locations of each GI element are read by a computer vision system and input to a hydraulic simulation engine—a simplified version of one built for the Illinois EPA. Players receive immediate visual feedback on the scale & cost of each GI element as they are placed on the board. Once a plan is made, the resulting effects from a variety of storm types are visualized by an animated sequence of water flow, which is interpreted from the hydraulic simulator. Players can use specific tiles to operate the system's dynamic legend in order to revisit previous arrangements to continually iterate upon their plans for infrastructure placement. The inherent design challenge was to produce simple game-like tiles that can be easily interpreted by both the computer-vision system and human eyeballs. Hundreds of prototypes were created to test color & feature recognition capabilities as well as material & scale. The interface design for ecoCollage was conducted as part of the Responsive Media Lab at the UIC Innovation Center. The project is an ongoing grant-funded collaboration with UIC's Learning Science Research Institute, College of Urban Planning & Public Affairs, faculty and researchers from the departments of Biology, Ecology, and Computer Science, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago

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