Cool Stuff Friday

[Photo: Kirk Morales via Unsplash. Illustrations: NYC MTA/ tovovan via Shutterstock]

[Photo: Kirk Morales via Unsplash. Illustrations: NYC MTA/ tovovan via Shutterstock]

Sick of the Subway? One of those people happy grouching over the Subway? Welcome to Brand New Subway, a game where you get to design a subway.

New Yorkers frustrated by the high fares, cramped commutes, and long walking distances to the nearest stop have long loved indulging in the city-wide pastime of playing armchair design critic to the MTA. But is it possible to design a more efficient New York subway system? Like SimCity for subways, Brand New Subway is a new web game that lets you give it a shot—and it just might give you a newfound appreciation for the efficiency of the MTA.

Based upon an accurate map of New York City, the goal of Brand New Subway is to design your own subway line. You do so by putting icons representing existing MTA lines onto the map, with the computer automatically connecting stations into lines by calculating the optimal path between them. Crossovers can also be manually assigned, so that multiple lines form a citywide network.

Where things get interesting is that when you drop a station on the map, Brand New Subway automatically pulls in local data from a variety of sources, including information about population, jobs, transportation demand, taxes, and so on. It then calculates how successful your subway is based on a couple of metrics: how many people it can move on an average weekday, and the cost of a single-ride MetroCard for the network.

You can read more about the game here. Brand New Subway.

Furenexo wants to make assistive tech.

Would you purchase a basic digital camera connected to a 22″ LCD monitor for $3,000?

How about a GPS unit to announce your location for $800?

Unfortunately, a hugely overlooked segment of the population has no choice but to pay these prices for outdated technology – namely, people with disabilities.


We at Furenexo believe it’s time for Makers to become advocates, and recently launched our Kickstarter campaign to develop low-cost, highly accessible assistive technology using open source hardware and software. We see an amazing opportunity to empower Makers to become “enableists”, and make better things — and things better — for our world.

Why Make Assistive Devices?

– Because advances like Arduino, 3D printing, and object/face/voice recognition are making concepts that were only pipe dreams a few years ago possible.
– Because the challenges faced by people with disabilities have been ignored for so long and any progress could have a deep impact.
– Because nobody needs an “Uber for dry-cleaning” or yet another disco light set-up for Burning Man.
– Because engaging with disability at any level could be a personal challenge outside your comfort zone.
– Because around 49 million Americans (3.8 million of whom are veterans) are affected by some physical or sensory impairment. The economic impact of even slightly reducing some of these challenges people with disabilities face could be profound.
– Because just making something to help a neighbor could earn you a smile and thank you to light up your day, and every day.

There’s much more at Make Magazine. Furenexo’s website.


  1. Ice Swimmer says

    Yes, the cost of assistive devices can be huge. I’ve seen from the side, what the stuff for sight-impaired can cost: A mechanical brailler is about 1200 €, a talking (for reading letters , bills and other documents) scanner 3000 € and a Braille display for computers can be 3000 -- 7000 € (it’s a complicated electromechanical machine). Luckily smartphones and computers are fairly usable with free or cheap tools (mainly a screen reader program, which is available for free for at least Windows and Linux and standard in Android and iPhone).

    I’m sure many things can be best done with separate “gadgets” (things like kitchen scales, thermometers), but for many things, smartphone and software could be a cheap solution.

  2. blf says

    Allegedly, one of the main designers / developers of Kubunu (a variant of the Ubuntu Linux distribution) is sight-impaired, which explains why Kubuntu / KDE is rather friendly to sight-challenged people. It’s not by any means prefect; my canonical example it is does assume, when being initially installed, you have good vision (meaning: It’s fecking near impossible to see the configuration options for adjusting the visibility if your vision isn’t “good”).

    I have never even attempted to verify the claim about the individual(s?), but can confirm Kubuntu / KDE is less-hostile to at least some sight impairments than a distributing amount of other software.

    M$hiteware gets (as usual) top marks for being the most-unusable; my canonical example is the MUAs (e-mailers), when configured to send HTML-formatted e-mail, seem to insist on using pointsize 9 text, which is simply unreadable unless you have perfect (20/20) vision (and even then it’s debatable). And I know people who do have good vision complain about that stooooopidity.

  3. Ice Swimmer says

    Debian (Linux) has an installer with a screen reader built in, but it isn’t really usable yet. Windows is fairly usable with NVDA, but install and more complicated maintenance requires a seeing person. In all desktop systems buggyness, bad design of UIs and badly written applications are problems as is the availability of speech synths for smaller languages. Some versions of the Gnome UI in Linux with the Orca screen reader are fairly usable any way.

    The worst of the worst FPOS is Windows Phone 10. There’s a screen reader that crashes all the time with an incomprehensible UI and a narrow support for smaller languages (Try having the English language speech synth pronounce non-English names and you’ll only hear the most incredible gibberish.)

    My experience is that an Android phone is easy to set up in such way that a blind person can use it and be self-sufficient once the screen reader is on (and in the case of Finnish, the Vocalizer speech synth with Finnish voice is installed and bought).

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