Instead of hearing “wait…wait…wait” at a crosswalk, what if you heard a message. A simple message from someone else. Many crosswalk buttons don’t work. So why not re-purpose these safety devices to do something entertaining, useful, and constructive.
Push to Change is an interactive art project to repurpose these devices. It shares messages in an unconventional way – using a crosswalk button that broadcasts other people’s messages about how to improve the world.
Who made it?
Tim Dye created the project as part of his work with electronic and interactive displays to tell stories and show data in interesting ways. More of Tim’s work at: www.DataTechArt.org.
If you’re interested in a custom crosswalk button for your business or organization, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why create it?
Have you ever wondered what’s on the inside of that crosswalk box? As I stood there one afternoon, repeatedly pushing the button only to hear “wait..wait…wait…”. Instead, I wondered what would make a better experience for people standing around and waiting to stroll across the street.
What’s in a crosswalk button system?
Here’s a list of what I found on the inside: electronics, speaker, microphone, power connectors, pressure activated button, and a vibrator inside.
The majority of crosswalk buttons in NYC do absolutely nothing to change the lights. The city didn’t want to pay to have them removed when they moved to an automated system. People still like pushing them, though.
What surprised me about crosswalk buttons?
When I opened up the case and peered inside at the electronics, speakers, and wires, I also found a microphone. A microphone for what? Listening to what and who. Instantly, I wondered about past salacious conversations at crosswalks – was someone listening? Was the government spying on me? The microphones record ambient sound levels to adjust the speaker volume.
Want to add your message?
1. Call (470) 242-6438
2. Leave a message; provide the following
- Your message to the world
- Your first name, city, state, and country
3. Speak slowly and clearly
Why did I think that simple messages could change the world?
I’ve found that a short message, at the right time, is enough to take me out of my routine, conveyor-belt-like mindset and make me think differently.
Where was it located?
Based on the sticker on the unit, it says this from Irvine, CA (Station 7 located at Irvine Center Drive @ Enterprise). Based on the Google Streetview images, this intersection looks a bit unfriendly for pedestrians.
What components were used to create it?
Here is a list of things inside the unit:
- Arduino Uno
- Adafruit Wav Shield
- MicroSD card
- Audio amplifier
- RGB LED
- Three axis accelerator
- Vinyl lettering on sign
Are these devices just placebo buttons? Many crosswalk buttons don’t work. These buttons are relics of an age before computer-controlled traffic signals. Push that button, and it changes the light – correct? Not always. Some people argue pushing the button gives us a sense of control. Why does the public continue to push these buttons – because they make us feel good (see NY Times article). Does pushing it 3, 5, and even 10 times give you more control? Next time you’re crossing a street with your control-freak friends – observe how many times they push it.
How many styles exist?. There are different types, styles, and signage of crosswalk buttons. The saddest crosswalk button I’ve seen was in Saint Paul, MN (picture) on a rusting pole, torn up, and dangling for its life. Remarkedly, it still worked.
It was built by Campbell Company and is called an Advisor Guide Accessible Pedestrian Station (AGPS).
From the product brochure: “Pedestrians are finding it more challenging to cross safely at signalized intersections. The Advisor AGPS provides important cues to assist all pedestrians to cross the intersection safely by providing audible, tactile, and visual indications at the crosswalk. A locator tone tells a pedestrian that the crossing is equipped with APS and where it can be found. The acknowledgment tone and visual LED indication accompany a pedestrian call. An extended press provides specific intersection information and access to additional functions. The walk tone or message is accompanied by a vibrotactile indication during the visual walk display.”