A voice speaker for train stations

Cover Image for A voice speaker for train stations
Morten Just

Here’s a train station.

Let’s say you’re going to the airport. As you’re standing on the platform, you realize that when it comes to time, you can’t afford getting on the wrong train, one that does not go to the airport. The scenario plays out in your head. How many stations in the wrong direction would it take until you realize? Would you produce involuntary sounds of surprise? Would you have to push other passengers aside to get out just before the doors close? And so on.

In this case. you’re going somewhere. There’s a chance that you’re escorted by luggage. If you look up, you’ll see a camera, its wires connected to a network of sorts.

We’ll hook the camera up to a luggage recognizer algorithm, running in the box with the telephone icon. Don’t worry, it’s 100% anonymous. All it knows is that a person has a piece of luggage.

Of course, you don’t always have any visible clues that you’re going to the airport. In this case, we’ll rely on your adorable tendency to speak your thoughts.

Enter the personalized announcer. Through its directional speaker, it tells you when you can expect the next train to the airport. The otherwise fascinating video ad across the tracks changes to a line map, just for you; where the train is now, where you are, and where you’re going.

Other trains, leaving for other destinations than the airport, may arrive while you’re waiting. The system will try to make those trains invisible for you, by projecting an image of the back wall.

As the your train arrives, the personalized announcement tells you.

On the visual side, it projects a path on the ground you can follow. As you do that, and as you approach the end of the path, you look up, and you see that it’s also projecting its guidance on the train itself. You cannot miss this.

Here’s the system in its entirety.

It’s relatively cheap. The SoundTube Entertainment FP6020-II Sound-Focusing Speaker is around 500 dollars. A commercial projector clocks in at around 1,000 dollars.

With the hardware in place, and the costs of installation, we’re looking at around 2,000 dollars per speaker. Since we’re using the security camera, this could fall in the budget for Repair and replace critical safety infrastructure, and under it,Station renewal, projected at 210 million dollars, or 6% of the BART budget plans for 2016. At three speakers per station in the 5 biggest downtown stations (including Oakland and Berkeley), we’re looking at 30,000 dollars, or less than 1% of the budget. The initial development of the software may set us back 200,000 or more, depending on how much we can finance with the billboard system for ads

There is a 200 million dollar post on the budget for “Design and engineer future projects to relieve crowding, increase system redundancy, and reduce traffic congestion.” With the directional speakers, we can guide passengers towards cars that are less crowded.

We should probably fix the broken escalators first.

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