Project Brief: Design an alternative use for the onboard TV screens in London Buses. (1 week project in collaboration with Angus Chan)

Research / Development

We noticed how dirty and neglected many bus interiors were. A recent study revealed public transport as being one of the most unhygienic public environments; more contaminated, in fact, than the average public toilet! We decided to make a short video to try and convey this.

Design proposal

Our proposal is to adapt the onboard TV system so that it displays which of the bus's interior surfaces have been most 'touched' by passengers. The TV screen would display the standard real-time interior shots, however, this would be overlaid with a visualisation of "virtual dirt" building up gradually on the bus's interior surfaces. The build up of "virtual dirt" in any given area directly corresponds to how long passengers have remained in contact with it. The virtual dirt overlay can only be "wiped clean" when the bus itself is taken to the depot to be cleaned.

Aims and objectives

The bus display would allow passengers to determine which surfaces (i.e. handrails, seats) inside the bus are least likely to be "contaminated". By referring to the display, the expectation is that passengers would select the cleanest available space to occupy. The display would also give an indication of how much the bus has been used since it was last cleaned (which would encourage bus companies to clean their buses regularly!). Our "virtual dirt" display aims to incite a neurotic reaction in passengers.

Context of work

The number of "food-scares" and "health warnings" (largely proliferated by a Media which is fond of over dramatising these issues) is contributing to a "hypochondriac mindset" within society. Although our project was informed by a recent study, which reveals public transport to be one of the most unhygienic public environments; our work is partially a commentary on the publics over sensitivity to such issues.


Our project is primarily a piece of critical design. However, it was still important for us to design a system that could be realised without the need to install any additional onboard technology. Our system could be implemented entirely in software (and hence could run on the bus’s onboard PC). By analysing the live feeds from the various onboard cameras an algorithm could extrapolate which areas are being touched or occupied at any one time. Therefore, I think our design is successful in proposing a service that is feasible from both a technological and economic standpoint.