The Bentway: Human-Centric Design for Public Spaces

Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC)

From Steps to Stories

Autodesk Research is using wearable sensor technology to capture people’s experience when using public spaces, in collaboration with the Bentway in Toronto. From Steps to Stories is an interactive data art installation that explores the connections between human experience and computer vision under the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto, a community space recently revitalized as the Bentway.

Outfitted with camera-adorned data-capture helmets, participants set out on “walkshops,” in which they walked the length of the Bentway as video and audio of their experience were recorded. Participants also provided more subjective data by way of survey questions answered along the way, for example, how lonely or social is the space? How inspired does the space make you feel? To visualize the participant’s facial expressions while maintaining anonymity, we ran an algorithm to extract the facial contours and drew them as outlines overlaid on top of the video.

In addition to participant reactions, the helmet sensors also captured environmental information, such as temperature, pressure, humidity, and luminosity. In analyzing the data, researchers were able to use computer algorithms to detect what a person was looking at — be it a tree, a person, or a bridge.

While this research is still ongoing, “From Steps to Stories” sets the stage for a future where individual and collective human experiences can empower new design workflows using participatory design methods, moving us towards a built environment that actively improves public health and well-being.  

Based on this work, the team hopes the future of public space will be designed much more collaboratively, where design tools become more accessible, understanding and implementing public feedback becomes integral to design workflows, and designers can evaluate the consequences of designs decisions in real-time leading to more sustainable and experientially diverse public spaces – spaces that respond and adapt to the wants and needs of the communities they serve.

“Every person will experience the space in a different way. Through this study, we’re hoping to capture some of that variability and build a better model of human reaction to space.”

Jacky Bibliowicz

Manager, Research Science

Get in touch

Something pique your interest? Get in touch if you’d like to learn more about Autodesk Research, our projects, people, and potential collaboration opportunities.

Load projects