Virtual reality, eye-tracking, and emotion-sensing technology is being developed to ensure passengers can easily navigate HS2’s future Old Oak Common station.
Around a quarter of a million people are expected to use the new 14-platform super-hub, situated in north-west London, each day.
Wearing VR headsets fitted with eye-tracking and emotion-sensing technology, three sample groups drawn from members of the travelling public will enter a virtual version of the new station.
Once in the VR, passengers will be asked to navigate their way around Old Oak Common to reach meeting points, platforms, and to change between HS2 and Crossrail services using the signage included in the current design.
The team will dedicate a further session to passengers whose mobility is impaired to explore what further assistance they might need.
Eye-tracking technology fitted to VR headsets will monitor in detail how the eye is drawn around the station’s interior, and whether there are any distractions that might contradict or confuse people.
Emotion sensing software will also be used to observe facial expressions and monitor heart-rate changes of passengers using the VR set.
The data collected by CCD will enable HS2 Ltd and station designers to assess and refine designs to help Old Oak Common passengers move around the 100,000sq/m station.
Commenting on the scheme, HS2’s Innovation manager, Heather Donald, said: “The HS2 super-hub at Old Oak Common is the largest single-build station to be built in the UK.
“Up to quarter of a million passengers will use it to connect between HS2, Great Western, and Elizabeth line trains each day, so it is vital that its design is fine-tuned to deliver a stress-free step change improvement in the passenger experience.
“Informative and clear signage is a prerequisite to ensuring that people using the station and changing between services can move with intuitive ease.
“We’ve taken an innovative approach to use cutting-edge technology to ensure we have it right years before the station opens.”
CCD Design & Ergonomics managing director David Watts said: “Wayfinding is an immersive, multi-sensory task.
“Up until now, we’ve not had the tools to fully test our designs with real people at the early stages of design.
“Developing this tool will give the project far greater scope to get the design right while it’s all still on the drawing board.
“We are also able to explore other ways in which immersive tech can help design from improving accessibility, testing ideas for how digital technologies can assist the experience, assessing the right location for commercial units or advertising or helping staff simulate how they will operate the station.”
Kevin White, technical director of Stations at WSP, added: “The process has brought immediate benefits to the wayfinding that will be fed back into the design, and it has become apparent how this technology can help in many ways throughout the design, construction, and operational stages of the station.”
Image: HS2 Ltd