New class to push walking

This semester, the College of Fine and Applied Arts has introduced a new course. The class, Mobile Mapping for Everyday Spaces, merges three disciplines – art and design, computer science and kinesiology – and requires students to create devices that encourage people to take walks.

“We use existing technologies wherever possible, (to create different ways to enhance walking),” said Kevin Hamilton, assistant professor of art and design.

Hamilton teaches the class with visiting artists in residence M. Simon Levin and Laurie Long, and computer science graduate student Piotr Adamczyk.

Hamilton said the goal of the class is to produce prototypes of devices which people can use to enhance their walking experience.

Each department has a different interest in this class.

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“A lot of artists have started to look at walking as a space they try to encourage people to go to,” Hamilton said. “They want you to start to see things that you didn’t see before – the everyday stuff.”

The Department of Kinesiology is more concerned with finding new ways to motivate people to exercise.

“They see (walking) as the ideal form of physical activity,” Hamilton said. “It’s not something you have to do for 45 minutes per day; it is something you can do as part of your day.”

However, many people aren’t engaging in physical activity, and ploys like pedometers aren’t doing much to change the trends, Hamilton said. The department is hoping that this class may create something that would be more effective.

“Computer science is moving in a direction where they see computing as something that isn’t just on a desktop,” Hamilton said. Research from this course will help the Department of Computer Science make spaces more technologically interactive.

Hamilton said students in the course come from a wide range of majors. Having students with a wide spectrum of talents is key for this class. Groups are able to approach projects from both an aesthetic and technical standpoint.

So far students have created a variety of devices. One group constructed goggles that were connected to sensors in shoes. When the wearer walks, a flap covers the goggles. When the wearer stands still, the flaps come back up. This helps the wearer engage more with their other senses. Another group created small-speaker hubs and hid them throughout the Siebel Center for Computer Science, 201 N. Goodwin Ave. When someone approaches them, the speakers make noise.

The class meets for four hours on Fridays at the Siebel Center, and also participates in Saturday walks twice a month.

For Philip Matesic, senior in FAA, walking is “a new way of examining the everyday.”

“(It’s) a giant magnifying glass looking at walking as a form of social interaction,” he said.

Jacob Lee, sophomore in Engineering, said he gained more appreciation for beauty in the world around him from taking this class.

“I pay a lot more attention when I’m walking now,” Lee said, who previously had only been concerned about moving from point A to point B. “I still walk really fast, though.”