How well do you know your whereabouts? Better yet, how does one get acquainted with a new location when traveling or relocating?
A team of researchers at NJIT has created aplace-based artificial intelligence project that helps denizens expand their knowledge of the city of Istanbul.
“[AI]stanbul has been designed as a curious machine that aims to be a virtual native,” explains the [AI]stanbul team about the installation on display at the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, Sept. 22 – Nov 4.
“By asking questions to people — inhabitants, visitors, tourists — about Istanbul, aims to understand the dynamics of a place. We think that we can begin to understand a city through the many daily lives of its inhabitants with their — sometimes mundane and sometimes extraordinary — experiences.”
The acquisition and interpretation of place-based experiences through interactions with visitors and participants encouraged cross-college collaboration between NJIT’s College of Architecture and Design (CoAD) and Ying Wu College of Computing (YWCC).
[AI]stanbul is developed by CoAD Adjunct Instructor Ersin Altın, Instructor/Administrator Burçak Özlüdil, University Lecturer Augustus Wendell and YWCC Assistant Professor Amy K. Hoover. Together, the quartet brings a concentrated set of proficiencies that sit at the intersection of art, design and new media, including human science, narrative and interactive systems and informatics. YWCC game development students Garry Guann (computer science) and Satchel Quinn (information technology) supported the team with the development of [AI]stanbul’s interactive applications.
Unlike popular crowd-sourced forums like Yelp and TripAdvisor, [AI]stanbul relies on the more elusive components of daily life — personal memories, transportation itineraries and wish-listed destinations — to familiarize people with the city’s manifold experiences.
“We want to capture a more ephemeral relationship with the city,” say the team members. “The places we do not talk about or share, but make up the lion’s share of our lives. Our simple routines — that cafe across the street where you grab your pastry in the morning — but without forgetting the other habits that spice up our lives every now and then.” Participants fed [AI]stanbul around 6,500 responses relating to their everyday experiences so far.
“AI and machine learning are expanding rapidly in many fields including art and design,” says the team.“[AI]stanbul proposes to use these technologies to reveal divergent patterns of the lives of urban inhabitants and express those patterns artistically by creating a communal platform to share.”
The current iteration of [AI]stanbul on display at the Istanbul Design Biennial isn’t a finished work — and that’s by design. “In a way, what we are exhibiting is the process itself,” says the team.“Everyone will watch [AI]stanbul acquire information, make sense of what it acquires, and reflect it back to us all over the course of the six weeks of the biennial.”
And once the biennial ends, the team plans to take the show on the road. “We’ll use global cross-experiences and hybrid permutations to offer the same teaching and learning process in different cities to share the collected anonymous data with anyone interested, from designers to urban researchers to someone who is simply curious about getting to know the city in a different way.”