Things as citizens 

 TU Delft & AUAS Digital Life Centre 


Project brief

Cities are becoming smarter. Sensors are embedded on objects such as traffic lights or park benches; the data generated by the user of the city are combined and analyzed to optimize the use of the city in all kind of ways, offering new products and services.

Project PACT (TU Delft) argues that there will be a next iteration of the smart city as soon as the things become more intelligent through artificial intelligence and machine learning. Things will become self-aware and have agency. The things will be citizens too in the intelligent city. Not only will we see new interfaces with services as the dialogues become a more dominant paradigm, the whole system of the things in the city will change. When we understand the potential relationship between people and intelligent things, we are better able to live with them. Designers will have an important role in shaping this future society.

For designers, this triggers all kind of questions. What is the rule set we need to design for these things? And what is the relation between things and humans in these smart cities? In this speculative design project, we would like to dive deep into the future of these new cities and make a demonstrator of one particular thing, a bike that behaves as a citizen.

Case year: 2018

Concept video

The video below shows the concept introduction.

The concept

The Y.O.L.O. (Your Online Leads to Offline) bike is the future bike envisioned for the year 2050 that tracks the user’s emotions and cares about his well-being. Y.O.L.O. is the user’s best companion that will help its user to stay present in the moment and connect with others.

In a world of constant online connectivity, the bike focuses on creating an offline network in which new connections are built. The Y.O.L.O. bike helps users to connect, make new friendships, and love or professional partnerships. It helps to bring back the sense of belonging and community through which it also indirectly has an effect on users wellbeing. Further, the bike focuses on the small interactions that cyclists already have with each other today and tries to stimulate and improve those interactions.

The ride becomes more than just a way to go from A to B, but also a pleasant moment during the day or relaxing activity, especially during busy days. The bike gathers the data on the user’s enjoyable moments on the bike, like for example the user’s mood through detection of facial expressions or user's responses to proposals made by the bike, in order to improve them and enrich the cycling experience.

The Y.O.L.O. bike in this context establishes the partnership between itself and its user. With an advanced technology, this relation feels like the companion and bond people make with their pet. Exploring new paths, biking by his/her favorite spot, enjoying the sun along the canals or even meet people, the user just has to jump on his/her bike and follow its lead to spend a good moment. At any time, the user can change his mind and disagree with the bike: whenever the bike suggests a direction, the user can communicate his opinion either through micro gestures (yes/no/neutral) or through voice command. 

To make the whole experience possible, the bike has to know a lot about its user - the cyclist, that is why the user’s own personal assistant is synchronized with the bike. The bike becomes the user’s partner. Since the personal assistant is permanently connected to all user’s smart objects, it knows all about its user: his calendar, used mobile applications, habits, preferences, mood and so on.

Further, the bike maintains a dialogue with the user during the ride. For example, in terms of meeting new date matches and finding out about users preferences, the user can give a bike a real-time feedback in a form of simple discrete hand gestures which are being tracked through gesture tracking. The user’s mood is tracked through an AI assistant’s front camera that analyses the user’s emotions through the facial expressions. The data is constantly being examined and the system uses deep learning to learn from all given feedback. The bike functions as an extension of the cyclist and tries to stimulate unity in the community. It helps other bikes and tries to make contact with bikes with the same interests. In case of an emergency, the bike informs the ambulance and police, but also sends a notification to nearby bikers to reach out for help. 



Animals have an instinctive behaviour and pets reveal this special relationship with their owners. We have sought to replicate some of their aspects when we designed our bike. For instance, we were inspired by the idea of a herd behaviour, that would make the bike act within a group and for the group. Or the fact that the bike cares about its user and looks after him.

Through the dialogue (that includes agreements and disagreements) it deals with the user’s emotions and cares for the user's well-being similarly as a pet can recognize when its owner is feeling under the weather. We also found the interesting fact that a pet can be able to find and track its owner, or the fact that it slowly accustoms the same character traits. By looking at these behaviors we explore better the space between actor and creator.

The videos below show two examples of the bike's behaviors. The first video shows the 'herd behavior', and the second one shows the 'companion behavior'. 

Herd behaviour


Companion behaviour



See Y.O.L.O. bike website to learn more about the project.

Project team roles

Clara Lanthiez: Research - Concept - Video editing - Video After Effects - Landingpage
Gabriela Prattingerova: Research - Concept - Video editing
Adriaan Oudemans: Research: - Concept - Sound editing
Milan van der Maaten: Research - Concept - Visual identity - Video editing - Video After Effects