CrimeZyland Technical Details

CrimeZyland is a theme park of crime with several "attractions". It runs on a network of 3 Macintoshes and 3 STAMP microcontroller computer chips. Here is a description of the attractions and their technical infrastructure.

Map-Z-Crime creates the living map of San Francisco in which information visualization robot clowns and toy police cars located at each of the 10 highest crime spots in San Francisco jump into action when statistics suggest a crime might be happening. The San Francisco Police CABLE statistics from last year with hour-by-hour and block-by-block breakdowns are loaded into a Hypercard stack on a Macintosh. My program determines the current time and checks if the focus crime is likely to be happening at each of the spots. If a crime is indicated, the program sends a message via serial communication to the STAMP microcontroller telling it to activate the clown. Each pole consists of a dc motor to actuate the clown and electronics to cotrol the police cars. I programmed the STAMPS in a special built-in mini-BASIC.

Choose-Z-Crime allows physical and web viewers to select the focus crime -- composite, murder, rape, assault, robberty, car theft, environmental, or corporate crime. The map activates in accordance with the chosen crime - for example, if a viewer has selected murder, the poles will spring into action to indicate likelihood of that crime. Physical viewers see a 2x3foot plastic cityscape mat as the main interface. I reversed engineered this toy to adapt it to the installation.  They push on different parts of the image to indicate their choices. LED's on the "Now Showing":board affirm their choice, an ISD voice chip speaks the chosen crime, the mat makes an urban sound effect, and the "Who's in Control" LED indicates the event is currently under local physical control. If a Web viewer makes a choice the interface "automatically" actuates all the actions (sounds, lights, words, etc) and turns on the LED to indicate that a Web viewer is in control.

Accomplishment of this dual physical/web control situation, several computers aand a microcontroller chip work together. A Macintosh running Hypercard manages the CGI response for web viewers and FTP's (via applescript and Fetch) the information to one of SFSU's Sun servers. A Macintosh located at the Art Commission Lot uses HyperCard, Fetch, and Applescript to retrieve information on Web viewers' choices to control the physical interface mat. It assesses if a local viewer is in control and if not, sends choices via serial RS-232 to the mat. The mat is controlled by a STAMP mcirocontroller. The STAMP constantly monitors the actions of physical viewers and the information about web viewers and adjusts the indicator lights, sounds, and spoken words accordingly. Physical visitors are often surprized to see the mat changing in front of them as Web viewers control it.

Scan-Z-Crime allows physical viewers to hear live police scanner transmissions by pushing a button. Periodically, it inserts fictional transmissions that sound like valid police transmissions but focus on envirnomental and corporate crimes not addressed by police actions. The event is controlled by a STAMP microcontroller. The microcontrollelr monitors whether a physical viewer has pushed a button. It then picks whether the viewer should hear a real or ficitional transmission. If it is time for a real transmission, the STAMP turns on a digital analog switch to send scanner radio audio to the remote speaker where the viewer is. If it is time for a fictional transmission, the STAMP turns on an ISD voice chip which has preloaded transmissions and directs the analog switch to send the voice chip sound. The STAMP sends 30 seconds of transmissions and then turns off the speaker until a new button push.

Web-Z-Crime allows web visitors to speak their opinions on crime out onto the street at the physical installation. Web visitors type their words onto a web page. Web-Z-Crime uses the Macintosh speech synthesizer to speak the words and the Macintosh CGI arrangment described above in Choose-Z-Crime to send the information to the installation. Users can pick any of 15 speech synthesizer personalities that fit with their words.  Samples are available at the web site.  The installation amplifies the sounds and sends them to the speaker located at the installation and then out to the street to whoever happens to be standing there.

Kinetic Information Visualizers:   Each crime spot is marked by a 10 ft pole topped with toy police cars or motorcyles. These toys flash lights, make police sounds and emanate voices when activated. I reverse engineered the toys to make them controllable by computer.   Each pole also incorporates kinetic rotating or swinging elements and control electronics.  When a crime is statistically indicated, a STAMP chip comptuer sends signals to the pole electronics which activate appropriate responses.

Back to main CrimeZyland site

For more information contact:
Stephen Wilson, Professor, Conceptual/Information Arts, Art Department, San Francisco State University

415 338-2291