Urban Probes

A methodology for conducting Urban Computing Research

"Let us embrace the full scope of urban life with all of its emotions and experiences"

Urban Atmospheres Research at Intel





Traditionally, it is the observations that are used to directly influence a design or prototype to be tested. Breaking directly with this approach, Urban Probes explicitly encourage direct interventions into the authentic fabric of urban life. Just as an archeologist must excavate and alter a dig site to improve their view of the space, Urban Probes must directly intervene to alter and/or disrupt the usage, actions, or flow within the urban focus of attention.

Examples may include arranging public chairs in new patterns on city streets, placing flowers atop parking meters, chalking lines between the locations of discarded cigarettes, introducing new signs and billboards, or leaving and tracking “lost” cigarette lighters throughout the city.

While these actions may appear random and ill founded within the scope of urban computing, we argue that these physical interventions deepen a researcher’s connection to urban objects, places and activities. In turn this accelerates the deconstruction and understanding of the essence of urban life, improves design outcomes, and promotes the emergence of fascinatingly novel ideas.


Urban Atmospheres at Intel Research