The Jabberwocky application allows individuals to view the ebb and flow of their urban landscape in truly unique ways.  Image a device that could display some measure of “familiarity” of people and places. How might such a device be used?  We briefly outline two scenarios.

Scenario 1: A woman who has recently graduated from college has moved to a new city and doesn’t feel at home. The display on her familiarity device reinforces her growing sense of integration within her new neighborhood, and reassures her that familiar people are nearby, even if she does not recognize their faces. When she explores unfamiliar neighborhoods in the larger city, she is occasionally surprised to discover how many people around her she has encountered before.

Scenario 2: In the midst of a frustrating day, an urban professional decides that he doesn’t want to eat lunch in his usual spot. After years at the same job, the large city seems more like a small town. He sees the same people every day in the same places. He wants to escape. As he walks quickly away from his work, he occasionally checks his familiarity device to see if there are any Familiar Strangers nearby. When he finds a street that the device tells him is completely unfamiliar, he chooses a restaurant. He feels as if he’s exploring new territory and though he is still surrounded by other people, he feels much less crowded than he did 15 minutes ago. 


Callouts of the main interface are shown above.  Essentially newly encountered strangers appear at the top of the screen -- each as a red or green square.  As time elapses, the strangers slowly move down towards the bottom of the screen.  Once they reach the bottom they slowly fade out.  The entire process from initial detection to fully faded takes about 10 minutes. Thus, a quick glance and the screen provides an easy way to visualize the current and past strangers.

Top Status Bar

When you are actively searching for strangers the upper left corner is blue.  The next text in the top information bar outputs a total count of all previously encountered strangers and place/groups.  In the example above there are 10 Strangers and 5 Places.  The final text in the top bar is the location where the last stranger was first encountered.  In this example, the most recently encountered stranger was first encountered in San Francisco.

Bottom Status Bar

The bottom status bar displays the currently selected location group setting.  In this example the current setting is San Francisco.

Middle Display

The center area of the display is used to visualize the strangers that you encounter.  The Jabberwocky application uses the following data to create the visualization:

  • Number of strangers (new and familiar) nearby
  • Number of encounters with each stranger
  • Amount of accumulated time near each stranger
  • Location Group of first and last encounter with each stranger
  • Since since first and last encounter with each stranger


Locate and start the installed Jabberwocky application.

After starting it will show no strangers and 1 place
(the unknown location group called "?")


Location Groups is an important part of the Familiar Stranger relationship and hence included in the Jabberwocky application.  The basis is that not all Familiar Strangers have the same meaning for each individual.  For example, the strangers that you encounter commuting home on the bus are not likely the same as those in your neighborhood or those at a dance club you frequent.  In fact it would be interesting to elucidate and reveal interesting connections between these stranger groups should they arise

Location Groups allow you to collect and categorized the strangers you encounter into groups.  The groups are user defined and do not necessarily need to be associated with a place (hence using the term "Location Groups" rather than simply "Locations"). Also users manually select their Location Group depending on their current activity.  For example, you may set the location group "Work" while you are at work.  Later when you walk to grab coffee it may be set to "Cafe" or "Downtown".  Later the setting may be "Subway" during your commute home.  Finally, later that night you may set it to "Odeon Bar" while you meet friends for drinks.  The most important thing is that you can define your own groups and easily switch between then with a single button.  The instructions for performing these operations are illustrated below:

Press middle selection button to bring up the location group menu.  There is initially only one place - the "?" or unknown place. Later when there are more location group entries simply use the up and down keys to scroll through the entire list to the desired selection.

For now we'll demonstarte how to add a new location group. From the previous screen, use the right motion key to create a new entry.

Using the keypad, enter the name of the new location group.


Press Options button to add location group. You can keep adding locations groups this way.

Use the Back button to return back to the main display after you have entered location groups.  You can see the full list of groups below the entry field.

Use the up and down keys to move through the list of location groups.  When you have selected the proper location group select it by pressing on the middle selection button.


There may be times when you'd like to turn the Bluetooth radio on or off.

Press the * key to enable Bluetooth searching.  Bluetooth radio is on when the upper right corner is blue.

Press the # key to disable Bluetooth searching.  Bluetooth radio is off when upper right corner is black.


There are several visualizations of strangers and we are in the process of adding new features and possibilities to this visualization.  For example, methods to visualize the history of encounters and shared time with these strangers is available but not shown in this particular visualization.  Below we describe the basic form of the simple stranger visualization.

When you encounter a stranger for the first time a small red square will appear at the top of the main screen.

Use the 7 and 9 keys to toggle on the location group for each stranger on the display.  This shows the name of the location group where the stranger was first encountered.  In this case the Subway.  Notice also that as time passes the stranger slowly moves down the display.

Use the 4 and 6 keys to toggle between using the color squares and icons to represent strangers.  Icons can be sleeted for each location group.  In this example a coffee cup is shown.


Eventually when the stranger reaches the bottom of the display it will begin to slowly fade out.  Strangers collect at the bottom of the display and fade as clusters.

When you encounter a Familiar Stranger -- that is one you have encountered before it will appear as a green square.

As you traverse urban spaces or experience the ebb and flow of strangers the display will render a variety of familiar and strange outputs



One of the most powerful elements of Jabberwocky is that it is not driven by the bits of an online network, but by actual real-life daily ebb and flow within our actual urban landscapes – by the movement and interaction (or non-interaction) of others who’s path we encounter.  Therefore, the number of “participants” is not simply the size of some database on a central server but a more powerful, grass roots, and personal membership in urban life. To be specific, every Bluetooth mobile phone user is within the Jabberwocky “community”.

However, as you traverse these urban landscapes you will want to buildup you connections to these strangers just as you do with your traditional Familiar Strangers.  Recall that we are not interested in designing a friend finder, matchmaking device, or system that explicitly attempts to convert our strangers into our friends. Strangers are strangers exactly because they are not our friends, and any such system should respect that boundary.  Having strangers on our urban landscape is not a negative thing.  On the contrary, the very essence of individual and community health of urban spaces intrinsically depends on the existence of strangers.  Their complete removal would almost certainly be detrimental.

To that end you you will want to collect your history and traversals of your daily, weekly, and monthly urban encounters with strangers.  Jabberwocky provides a mechanism to locally store these strangers as well as synchronize with a server which can be useful for offline visualizations and community stranger swapping -- thus revealing even more diverse connections to strangers and urban landscapes.

We will provide detailed instructions for performing these operations shortly.


Urban Atmospheres at Intel Research