google should do this

“Okay google, would it be faster to take the subway or walk to the nearest UPS store?”

I asked my phone that today and really thought it might spit back a useful response. That’s the level of magic we’ve come to expect form our phones. It didn’t answer the question, and my response was mild disappointment instead of thinking “man wouldn’t it be cool if my phone could do THAT” — I feel reasonably sure that someday soon, it will.

65 Possible questions for a future study — what would you ask?

I spent this morning at Union Station in Toronto, Ontario, standing in a space that allowed me to see the transition space between the Subway concourse and Union Station proper. For a little over an hour and a half, I stood, taking notes on possible questions to ask or variables to measure in a possible upcoming study. The requirements for a good question or variable are that it must be visually discernable from 50 meters away, and that it be discretely answerable either with a chosen collection of qualitative descriptors, a quantity, or as a yes/no response.

Many of the questions that I wrote must assume a context, like “count the people who are exhibiting a property at a given moment”, or “measure this across time” or in correlation with another variable.

I would love to hear other ideas for questions, or what questions anyone who might read this think sound interesting. I’m currently in the process of contacting the correct people to gain permission to perform this study by placing a camera or accessing their CCTV system.

Here they are:

  1. Are people moving in an intentional direction, or passively with the crowd?
  2. Given particular visual information about stairway / corridors, what do people choose (e.g. avoid a full stairway, how full, etc.)
  3. Flow rate of people in/out of doors, onto/off-of, on stairs, and on flat areas per unit time
  4. Colour of clothing — both in aggregate, and broken down by gender, time, fullness of platform
  5. Fullness of platform, broken down by time, maybe in 30 second increments?
  6. Door choice for entry/exit (total counts, counts per time range)
  7. Apparent ethnicity, compared to time and to cohort’s apparent ethnicity
  8. People following other people or navigating on their own or noticeably separately from the person in front of them
  9. Distinctive religious symbols (crosses, turbans, burqas, payots, etc.)
  10. Angles — 90 degree turns vs diagonal navigation, especially in relation to intentional vs passive motion
  11. Average time spent in the system per person, at various points in time
  12. Time of year, also weather: temperature, humidity, cloud cover, brightness
  13. Suits, Casual wear, Tie-colour, jackets/no jackets, long sleeves vs t-shirts, pants v. shorts, dresses vs. skirts,
  14. wearing headphones
  15. reading books, reading newspapers, reading phones
  16. origin <-> destination map over time, e.g. subway to Union, Union to ground level
  17. number of trips, collisions, falls, sudden changes of direction, especially in correlation with weather, following, angles, speed, and fullness
  18. backpacks, purses, laptop bags, suitcases, rolling luggage, packages
  19. shoe type: running shoe, dress shoe, sandals, flats, heels
  20. apparent hair colour, by time and by cohort and overall
  21. apparent age, by time and by cohort and overall
  22. apparent gender, by time and by cohort and overall
  23. ‘footedness’ — which foot do people step onto the stairs with first & last, up and down? by gender?
  24. handedness — which hand to people hold doors with versus footedness
  25. location, timing, and duration of stay for buskers and beggars
  26. strollers, pregnant women
  27. canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, seeing eye dogs
  28. facial expressions, by time, by gender, by following/intentional, by footedness
  29. directional facing at given instants, over time
  30. pidgeon count and location, pidgeon-collectors
  31. gum chewing and spitting
  32. where are people looking — up, down, in front of them, sideways
  33. eye colour (certainly infeasible to collect)
  34. # runners, per time and overall
  35. glasses-wearers, sunglasses-wearers, google-glass-wearers
  36. #steps at a time, by gender, by time of day
  37. haircut styles, hair length
  38. loiterers
  39. food — are people eating or carrying it, and their speed, following vs intentional, gender, age, time of day, etc.
  40. train arrival and departure times
  41. skateboards and bikes
  42. apparent weight of people at given times & given behaviours
  43. people whistling (probably not collectable)
  44. garbage bin use, litterers
  45. people asking other people questions
  46. people in pairs, in groups, actively discussing things, effects on themselves and people around them
  47. lanyards worn
  48. people talking on phones
  49. people who hold the rail or do not
  50. hat wearing and styles, over time, in total, by weather
  51. umbrellas by weather, gender, at given times
  52. security personnel, cleaning staff, construction workers, by location and time
  53. smokers, by location and behaviour, gender, time, weather
  54. day of the week
  55. coffee, thermos, other drinks, actively drinking, carrying multiple
  56. obstruction by flow — trying to get through a crowd going against you
  57. “clever” people who take a long or unusual route, perhaps confidently
  58. “confused” people who stop and look around helplessly or move very slowly while taking in their surroundings
  59. Stride length and tempo, limps, speed-adjustments (high and low speed per person for example) in given situations, at given times, etc
  60. Where do people put their hands? In pockets, at sides, behind back, on backpack, etc.
  61. Tendency of groups to clump vs tendency to expand and keep distance, over time and by gender / ethnicity maybe
  62. musical instruments
  63. footstep style (stompy, light, jogging, half-step at a time)
  64. manifestation of fears (as a pidgeon flew by, one woman suddenly cowered and crouched looking scared, then realized everything was fine, stood up and moved along)
  65. hunches / postures

Anyway, that’s about all I’ve got for now. Please tell me about other possible things to watch / checkout that may be informative for the usefulness and efficiency of the space, or suggest that topics I’ve already put up are stupid or good ideas, to help decide what I actually measure.