Meet & Move - The Shared Floating Parklet
Autonomous boat Service Design in Amsterdam
Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is famous for its intricate networks of water canals. The people and visitors of Amsterdam use them everyday to transport goods and people, for tourism and commerce. With over 1,000km canal and 1,500 bridges, the canal system of Amsterdam has developed an intimate relationship with the city, its history, and its inhabitants.
Amsterdam thrives on the multi-scale interactions between land and water as well as the human-scale waterways, which have become essential parts of citizens’ lives in the city. Besides providing a stunning backdrop to the city’s historical centre, floating down Amsterdam’s canals is one of the most memorable ways to discover the city's sights and attractions. Whether you’re a first-time or frequent visitor, everything in Amsterdam seems a bit more magical when viewed from a boat.
"A day in Amsterdam isn’t complete without a cruise through the canals of Amsterdam."
problem & vision
However, the recent urban development has gradually separated the land and water wherein automobiles and bicycles occupy the edges of the canal banks and houseboats occupy the riverside. It has become more difficult for people to engage with the water now so more and more urban activities have been shifted from water to land. Free spaces on land has become increasingly sparse and this lack of public space is causing a negative impact on the quality of people’s lives. Moreover, the existing canal tour cruises are primarily intended for tourists instead of locals, and can only offer a limited opportunity for people to enjoy the water.
Together with MIT Senseable City Lab’s Digital Design City Workshop, I looked at the design possibilities of autonomous boat technologies –such as the Roboat system developed in the lab with the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS)— and their potential uses in the canals of Amsterdam. Autonomous water-based mobility solutions can help automate transportation of persons and goods in the city, create dynamic on-demand structures such as bridges or other social spaces, and even integrate networks of mobile environmental sensing platforms among other potential uses. The city of Amsterdam is an ideal candidate for speculative design and exploration of this exciting new technology. How will the city react to such changes? Will such technology drastically alter the existing relationship of how people use land and water?
With an emphasis of bringing people more accessible public spaces that they can use in daily life, a new type of autonomous boat in future Amsterdam is proposed. It is based on the parklet in urban life, which is a sidewalk extension that provides more spaces and amenities for people using the streets. Usually parklets are installed on parking lanes offering places for people to stop, sit, and rest while conducting the activities on the street. Here, the parklet design is being used on the autonomous boat by proposing a new type of “floating parklet” on the canals of Amsterdam.
meet & move
There are two functions of the floating parklets: Meet and Move. They are based on the analysis of the most needed demands among the residents and tourists: social engagement and healthy lifestyle.
Meet - Social Engagement
Move - Healthy Lifestyle
Meet - Relax Space
The Relax mode of the Meet autonomous boat is intended to provide new spaces and experiences for people to meet others, regardless of families, friends, colleagues or even strangers. It provides a cozy environment for people to escape from their daily routine and have a good time on the water. It is featured with comfortable bean sofas and digital kiosks where users can simply tap their phones to get access to thousands of resources including ebooks, maps, itineraries, restaurant ninformation and so on. The open air structure gives people the opportunity to view the architectural highlights Amsterdam has to offer and more intimate contact with the scenery.
Just imagine lying on a comfortable bean sofa reading an interesting book, listening a piece of relaxing music or chatting with your friends with the fresh air and all the fabulous scenery of Amsterdam surrounding you!
Meet - Work Space
The Work mode of the Meet autonomous boat is designed for office workers and students to escape from the lackluster meeting/study rooms and enjoy the city in a new way. With two long tables in the center, it can accommodate two groups of six people or smaller groups of two - three people. Users can choose different ways of exploring the city by selecting from a variety of built-in audiovisual systems and can interact with the autonomous boats based on their own preferences and needs.
Move - Yoga Space
Have you ever thought of doing yoga on a boat? The Yoga mode of the Move boat is your new choice to keep fit while exploring fabulous Amsterdam! Activities on the Move boat are carefully chosen taking the safety of users and the space on the boats into consideration. Yoga and bicycling are two of the most suitable activities that can be conducted on autonomous boats. Yoga helps to reduce perceived stress and anxiety, increase people’s flexibility and balance. It also offers people self-reflection, the practice of kindness and self-compassion, and continued growth and self-awareness. You can also adapt the practices to your own speed and level of comfort. No matter which yoga exercises you choose, the practice will always be part of a great workout routine.
Just imagine after a long day’s hard work, you jump on the Yoga boat, stretching yourself and meditating with music and breeze around, it could be an unforgettable experience.
Move - Bicycling Space
Want to work up a sweat while cruising down a river? If so, you will love the Bicycling mode of the Move boat. The Bicycling space would be a fun escape for exercise enthusiasts who are tired of stuffy and boring gyms as well as busy office workers who don’t have much time for exercise. Now they can exercise while enjoying the fascinating scenery even on their way to work or back home! The sensors built into the vessel can track people’s output and real-time data as well as he environmental conditions of the river.
With careful design focusing on the scale, function and user experience, the floating parklets will become a simple and creative way to activate neighborhood centers, encourage community interactions, and create more seasonal outdoor activities.
In order to create diverse experiences for users, different itineraries are proposed to meet people’s different demands and uses.
The route mainly passes through residential and work areas to provide more flexibility for office workers and students.
There are two different routes based on different time frames: one hour and two hours. Since both bicycling and yoga can take a while to finish, the route is perfectly designed for people to utilize either exercise with enough time available.
Autonomous boat system heavily depend on the high-accurate positioning system and sensors, which enable it to locate itself on the water and interact with the surroundings. The floating parklets are connected with the central cloud-based server with GPS and sensors embedded in the body and also, at the same time, it is connected with people’s phones to receive information. When users send out requests, the server can process it and then send to the boats.
The floating parklet is also specially designed with six module mounting brackets to fulfill the flexibility and creativity of the design. People can easily change it from bean sofas, table and chairs, yoga mats to mechanical spinning bicycles to meet their demands.
Another feature of the boat is the specially-designed bike rack where people can easily park their bikes. Since biking is an essential part of the city life, people, can ride their bikes to the access points of the autonomous boats, carry them on and enjoy the water journey. It’s that simple!