RAZORFISH, Austin / undefined / 2013
The UseMeLeaveMe social bikes were created directly for consumers, combining a number of old and new technologies to provide a service for people visiting Austin during SXSW. Great copywriting shaped the voices and told the story of each bike through social media. Our technical development skills brought the bikes to life, and colorful design wrapped the whole program in a unified visual identity.
The program was an entirely new innovation created specifically for SXSW, using a collection of existing technologies, all of which were developed and controlled by our team.
Here’s how it worked: We started by setting up individual Twitter accounts for each bike. Each one of the 20 social bikes was given a unique personality along with an extensive library of pre-written tweets and tweet components, which were used to generate tweets dynamically. Each bike was embedded with a GPS unit along with audio and motion sensors, all of which were powered by supplemental batteries and recharged daily by a solar panel mounted behind the seat. The GPS units broadcast the bikes’ locations throughout the day to our servers. Our custom-built server-side systems then used that GPS data, along with time, weather and landmark data to publish tweets live as certain events were triggered – when the weather changed, the bike visited a certain location, if one sat idle for too long, etc. With each move, the location of each bike was updated on the accompanying web site. And when we lost contact with a bike, it would send a farewell tweet and sign off.
We are not actively seeking investment to continue the program, but given the opportunity, we’d love to further explore UseMeLeaveMe. We also plan on using what we have learned for other future projects.
We released the bikes into the wild to see how people would treat public property if they knew it by name. Not every bike was treated with care, but most survived —telling us that people treat public property better when it behaves like a person.
The long-term goal is to continue exploring how technology, transportation and social media can work together. We’re considering further development, and all future plans depend on viable commercial and creative interests.
One of the world’s largest bike-share programs praised our project, saying UseMeLeaveMe introduces a new model for urban transport powered by social technology. We hope our tweeting bikes will inspire public services, mass transit, manufacturing and social media to innovate beyond the status quo.
In 5 days (3/9 – 3/13) we achieved the following — without any investment in paid media/advertising.
• 55 press mentions
• 110,101 impressions from hashtag #UseMeLeaveMe
• 5,121,688 impressions before 3/9
• 14,557,852 impressions after 3/9
• Almost 20,000,000 total impressions
2/25-3/1 – Proof of Concept: assembling a bike; testing GPS and logic system
3/4-7 – Building the Bikes: assembling all the bikes
3/7-8 – Testing the Bikes: testing GPS and logic system for the bikes