All posts by Kaisa Eskola

Interactive screens complement digital wayfinding

The interactive city screens of the future might serve as a feedback channel and offer real-time personalized information about what’s happening in the city.

Digital and interactive screens are an increasingly visible part of the urban landscape. In tomorrow’s Helsinki they will be used as city guides and information channels. The interactive screens are ideal for integrated, participatory campaigns as well as for media art and visualizations.

Forum Virium Helsinki has been testing different kinds of wayfinding and interactive services on Clear Channel’s city screens. In the pilot projects conducted together with several city departments, the advertising screens have been used for diverse communications purposes.

The development work for creating interactive services for Helsinki’s digital media channels started from the needs of tourist guidance around three years ago. Since then, city screens both outdoors and indoors have been tested for delivering interactive map and information services for tourists and residents. This interactive service at customer service points utilize open data, and city departments have also produced their own information content to the screens.

“The digital wayfinding service for touchscreens fetches information from the city’s open data sources, which are also accessible for other service providers. The sources include news from the Metro newspaper and the City of Helsinki, the Linked events interface as well as public transport stop and route information from HRT,” Pekka Koponen from Forum Virium Helsinki elaborates.

“A useful idea, particularly with the map services and events info being available in different languages,” the users applaud.

Besides wayfinding, Forum Virium Helsinki is exploring opportunities with a broader range of interactive content. “We have produced and tested several interactive campaigns together with the city – from questionnaires to polls and participatory campaigns that activate the strollers on the streets,” project manager Kaisa Spilling says.

The first interactive experiment was conducted during the Ice Hockey World Championship in 2012. Passers-by had the chance to compete in light-hearted ice-hockey themed quizzes. Later on the screens have enabled people to test their animal expertise in a quiz at Helsinki Zoo, explore the e-book services offered by the Helsinki City Library and vote in the architectural contest for the design of Helsinki Central Library.

Forum Virium Helsinki and city departments are continuing their development work with media screens for both services and content. The idea is that in the future, the screens will provide residents with contextual information, serve as a feedback channel, and even offer customized information about current city events.

Digital media screens offer information based on time, place, event and audience.

Why it’s done
The screens provide residents and tourists digital wayfinding and interactive services, and also a chance to communicate with the City of Helsinki.

Who’s involved
The City of Helsinki Public Works Department, HRT, Helsinki Marketing Ltd, Helsinki City Library, the City of Helsinki Information Technology and Communications division, Clear Channel and Forum Virium Helsinki.

Who it serves
Locals and tourists, city departments.



Text: Petja Partanen, Tarinatakomo
Picture: Joel Pekari, Forum Virium Helsinki

The original article was published as part of Forum Virium Helsinki’s publication Building an open city.

Bitsign: Positive feedback from Kamppi

Between December 2014 and January 2015, a new mobile guide was piloted in the Kamppi shopping centre. With the help of a smartphone application and heart-shaped signs on the floor, people were able to find stores and services fast and easy.

The mobile guide is based on Bitsign technology and utilises augmented reality. The service is designed to find fast services in the shopping center: the user downloads the application, chooses a store/location from the menu and scans the first heart-shaped sign at sight. After that, arrows on the screen show which way to go. There were 250 marker signs placed around the shopping center.

“Technically the app worked well. The pilot give ideas of the number of stickers and the quality needed for high traffic areas like Kamppi,” says Kamppi shopping center manager Heli Vainio.

During the pilot, Forum Virium Helsinki was on location and helped people to download and use the application. A user experience survey was also conducted with an online questionnaire, reaching 50 replies.

Intuitive and fun

In general, the application received very positive feedback. A majority of people who had time to test the app, also found it useful. They felt that the service was easy to use, fun, and even positively surprising.

It was clear for users that this kind of application would be handy in an unfamiliar place and especially if there was a specific need at hand. The application would naturally work in other shopping centres, but also hospitals, libraries and other big public spaces. Or it could help those who were lost.

“The application worked well once customers had it downloaded on their phones, but the idea of offering it to busy commuters as a tool for wayfinding didn’t work out. When in a hurry, people don’t have extra time to use for downloading,” Heli Vainio continues.

When time is the essence, people would probably benefit more for a generic city application offering commercial and non-commercial applications alike. A service, that would already be in your mobile phone without major extra effort, and work as a Bitsign-styled wayfinding service, among others.

Simpler wayfinding

“Bitsign is aimed to become an open data and open API solution for wayfinding. It can complement other location techniques or work standalone. Core thing is that it should make providing and experiencing wayfinding simpler and bridge wayfinding to other onsite digital experiences such as augmented reality based exploration of site,” says Kai Kuikkaniemi from HIIT.

Bitsign was created by EIT Digital. The Kamppi pilot is part of EIT Digital’s international Street Smart project run by HIIT, Aalto University, Nokia, Robust North, Vincint and Forum Virium Helsinki. Forum Virium Helsinki participated in planning and production of the pilot and concept and marketing.

The original article was published in the Forum Virium Helsinki’s website.

A dive into the history of Helsinki with augmented reality

Inspired by urban history, Forum Virium Helsinki and VTT have been testing a new wayfinding concept linking the past and present when strolling the streets of Helsinki. The demo application takes you out on a historic tour, showing how the places used to look like 100 years ago. The concept was tested with a demo application in December 2014.

With the help of augmented reality, the application offers sightseeing spiced with history, touring the main attractions in the old part of the city center. At location, the app shows photos taken exactly at the same spot from the beginning of 20th century. The photos are fetched from the Helsinki City Museum’s archives.

The app is targeted for tourists, as well as the residents of Helsinki. It can be used with smart devices with a camera. A map shows places and attractions to observe and visit.


When the user is on site and looks through the camera, a historical (2D) photo appears on the screen showing what the place used to look like in the past.

Testing in the city centre

In December 2014, the demo application was introduced for a small test group. The aim was to get feedback, and to test the concept as a whole. The group was lead by developers from VTT, who operated the demo devices and showed the test group how the application works.

The test group was taken through a path with three different points at attractions around the city centre, like the Senate Square. The map showed their location as well as a general view of all the attractions.


In general, user friendliness was seen as the key when further developing the application, not to mention paying attention to the limitations of mobile and safety issues. The users also called for some kind of a “wow effect” to the application. The feedback strengthened the preliminary plans for the service.

“The pictures were only kind of flowing on top of the street view. They should be special enough to bring some extra value to the regular view. Short stories behind the photos would also be intriguing.“

People were also hoping for an audio guide or some kind of sign poles so that they would know where to stand and which way to look when on site. An audio guide would be useful especially for wintertime conditions. For tourists, it would be handy if the application would offer other sorts of information as well.

New usage for archives

The demo application demonstrated how the museum archives do in fact inspire new services. Innovative concepts and applications help to bring the museum contents for wider use. There’s also a lot of potential in the technology for creating new ways to understand the city and its history, narrating the city landscape, and branding the city.

The pilot is part of Street Smart, an international project funded by the EIT Digital.

Pictures: Helsinki City Museum; Noora Suvanto, Forum Virium Helsinki

The original article was published in the Forum Virium Helsinki’s website.

New mobile guide piloted in the Kamppi shopping centre

In the beginning of December, new heart-shaped signs appeared in the Kamppi shopping centre. They offer a new way of navigating in the Christmas rush with the help of a mobile phone. The digital navigation is provided by the service called Bitsign.

Photo: EIT Digital

Using Bitsign service is very simple: upload the free navigation App at Choose what you are looking for and scan the heart shaped markers on your smartphone. The arrows on your phone’s screen will show you which way to go. This video shows it all:

The signs will be in Kamppi shopping centre until the end of January 2015.

Bitsign is a simple digital solution for wayfinding indoors. It is based on augmented reality. There’s no need to have internet connection, censors, or 3D modelling.

– Bitsign is built on existing technologies but the combination is completely unique, tells the head of the pilot Kai Kuikkaniemi.

With Bitsign, you can easily create new navigation experiences and make shopping more like gaming. The utilisation of open data brings even more versatility to the application.

The Bitsign technology is based on augmented reality. The Kamppi pilot is part of EIT ICT Labs` Street Smart project run by HIIT, Aalto University, Nokia, Robustnorth, Vincint and Forum Virium Helsinki.

Test the App in Kamppi! Download at

Project Manager Kaisa Spilling
Forum Virium Helsinki
email: kaisa.spilling(at)
tel. +358 40 744 8831

The original article published in the Forum Virium Helsinki’s website.

Voting for the Christmas lighting in Helsinki

It’s a tradition that every year Aleksanterinkatu is shining with light when the Christmas lights are lit to mark the upcoming holidays. This year, residents of Helsinki also had a chance to tell their view on the Christmas lighting for Helsinki. A campaign introduced people a new set of Christmas light designs to vote from. The results of the voting are utilized by the City of Helsinki Public Works Department when making plans for the lighting in future.

The Lights of Christmas campaign involved people in planning the new lighting of the city. From a pre-set of lightning designs, one could vote his/her favourite in December. The votes were casted at the campaign website ( or via interactive media touchscreens around the city centre. By voting residents got to participate in the planning of the new Christmas lights and pass on their own virtual Christmas light for friends.

Valoisajoulu_Exove Design:Miikka PirinenPicture: Exove Design / Miikka Pirinen

Creating an international image for Helsinki

“Christmas lighting can help us to make Helsinki more attractive and appealing during winter,” says the manager of lighting Juhani Sandström from the City of Helsinki Public Works Department. The lights that are being planned now will be hanged next Christmas. Previously, it’s been vendors and decision-makers who have been engaged in the planning of the lightning, via different kinds of workshops. “Now the Lights of Christmas campaign gives us opinions of the residents,” continues Sandström. The user opinions are going to be utilized in the project during the next year.

Up until now, the Christmas lights in Aleksanterinkatu have been funded and executed by vendor organizations and marketing companies in the city centre. In the future, also the City of Helsinki will be financing the lights. The city is currently preparing a study, which will help to create guidelines for the lighting. With these guidelines, it will be easier for the partners to produce a coherent Christmas lighting for the city.

The Lights of Christmas campaign was a joint effort by Forum Virium Helsinki and the City of Helsinki Public Works Department. It was done as part of the Pinta project, aiming to create and pilot new forms of interactive services in the city. The campaign website and the application were designed by Exove Design.

The original article published in the Forum Virium Helsinki’s website.

More information:
Kaisa Spilling, Project Manager
Forum Virium Helsinki
tel. +358 40 744 8831


New ways to explore the future plans for the neighbourhood

Street Smart pilot / Urban Augmentation

In October 2014, a new way to present construction plans for the citizens was tested in collaboration with Helsinki City Planning department, VTT and Forum Virium Helsinki. Through VTT’s augmented reality application, people in Koskela neighbourhood got to know the future construction plans for the Koskela hospital area. The application showed people how the new buildings would look like in their real environment. This pilot is part of the EIT ICT Street Smart project.

Four different construction plans have been made for the Koskela hospital and laundromat site. The plans were evaluated on a chilly walking tour around the Koskela area, and in a group discussion that followed the walk. Anyone interested in the topic was able to join these events.

img_4580Picture: Suvi Kukkonen

Augmented reality illustrating the future plans

There were about 20 people participating in the walking tour arranged by the designers for Helsinki City Planning Department. All the participants on the walking tour explored also the plans with the augmented reality application.

The application illustrates the plans in their real environment and it is used with a tablet or other smart devices with camera. Most of the users perceived the application easy to use. The feedback was positive, the application functioned well technically and many thought that the urban augmentation helped them to visualize the plans on the site. The application added a new dimension to the traditional ways of visualizing, but some of the users felt that the traditional pictures would have been enough.

img_4547Picture: Suvi Kukkonen

Some users wished for more accurate and detailed designs for the application. For now the designs were too rough to evaluate. The application illustrated a good overall view of the area and helped the users to visualize the use of the space, location of the buildings and the height differences between the buildings. Users also hoped that the application could be used on a bigger screen or that they could download the application for their smartphones so that anyone interested could explore the plans on their own.

“The augmented reality helped to visualize the used space and proportions of the city space. The application has its limitations and it is not meant for every situation. For example the trees around Koskela area limited the use of the application in this pilot”, says Antti Varkemaa, project manager from the Helsinki City Planning Department.

The four different plans as a starting point for planning were considered as a good idea. All in all people felt that this kind of event was a good way of getting people involved in city planning and urban augmentation brought a new dimension to visualizing the plans.


More information:

Kaisa Spilling, email kaisa.spilling(at)
Charles Woodward, email charles.woodward(at)

The original article published in the Forum Virium Helsinki’s website.