The NewHere Project accelerates mobility innovation towards user-centered design
As urbanist and history’s most famous city dweller Jane Jacobs once proclaimed, people make cities, and “it is to them, not buildings, that we must fit our plans.”
60 years on, and the old adage still rings true. When we consider how we might design and enrich the city through new ideas, interpretations and values of mobility today, we can turn to user-centered design all the same.
Enter the NewHere Project, a collaboration between Loftwork and the East Japan Railway Company (JR East), born out of the ambition to promote user-centered service development in mobility, as part of wider efforts to engender innovations in the field.
In 2020, the scope of the project expanded, as we teamed up with companies to prototype service ideas via a design thinking framework. The project also joined forces with global creative award YouFab to explore new possibilities for mobility in the post-Covid world order.
- Project Duration
February 2019 – Ongoing
- Client Name: East Japan Railway Company
- Project name: NewHere Project
多田 麻央：Project Manager
上村 直人：Creative Director
野島 稔喜：Assistant Director
中野 雄大（SAKIGAKE Projects Inc.）
樋口 恭介（Anon Inc., Science Fiction writer）
宮田 龍（Science Communicator）
Helping organizations step out of the box, by putting users back in
The NewHere Project is part of JR East’s Mobility Innovation Consortium, a network of domestic and foreign transportation companies, universities and research institutions tasked with tackling social issues and creating new developments in mobility.
Since discussions were often biased towards ideas based on participating companies’ existing technologies, it was difficult to create services that were truly desired by users. The NewHere Project was thus launched in 2019, to help the consortium shift from a conventional technology-oriented perspective to a user-centered one.
Over the last two years, the NewHere Project has successfully built an ecosystem that engages with both companies within the consortium and experts and creators from the outside, developing services that incorporate a design thinking approach.
Building a collaboration system that transcends organizational boundaries
In its first iteration in 2019, NewHere kicked off an ideathon to create ideas for a new mobility service in Shibuya. The project embarked on a multifaceted search for insights into the ‘mobility’ of people who use the area around Shibuya Station.
The program was updated for 2020, with a focus on not only the generation of ideas, but also social implementation. We enlisted new service ideas using AWRD, Loftwork’s very own online recruitment platform, and creators who were selected received support in mentoring, team building, prototyping and user testing. These ‘outsider’ creators joined consortium members to form new teams, breathing new life into themes that were previously discussed.
A service development program using design thinking was also implemented, which helped teams better realize their ideas through user interviews and ideation sessions.
Creating service ideas through design and art approaches
To gain an even wider and more unexpected range of perspectives on the future of mobility, the NewHere Project teamed up with global creative award YouFab for a special 2020 ‘NewHere Prize’ – acknowledging works that focus on mobility in the post-Covid world. By calling for ideas from creators around the world, it allowed us to push the boundaries of the conversation, and to deepen our efforts in social implementation.
Service prototype of a ‘flying car’
As part of the 2020 NewHere program, one team was responsible for testing out the stuff made of sci-fi dreams: a flying car service. Taken from the consortium’s previous themes of ‘robot utilization’ and ‘congestion relief’, the team reexamined the value of humans flying in the sky and explored new air mobility services. Instead of a need for speed, the team proposed an experience that could be gained by “flying slowly and quietly”.
Service Prototype for ‘DX Healthcare’
In the context of a ‘smart city’, one team was charged with exploring the ‘DX Healthcare’ – combining transportation, physical and mental health and digital technology. The team created a storyboard of the experience of being able to both physically/mentally ‘reset’ and have medical checkups – all in an area inside the ticket gate.
Special exhibition to share service ideas with the wider community
Through a special exhibition of the project’s service prototypes, we were able to share NewHere’s activities and ideas with the commuters and station users at Takadanobaba station. The exhibition was held at STAND by Book and Bed Tokyo, a cafe directly connected to the station.
Introducing: the YouFab 2020 ‘NewHere Award’ and winning works
The NewHere Award was established in collaboration with the 2020 YouFab Awards, under the theme of ‘New Mobility’, which called for creators to respond to ‘mobility’ experiences’ in the wake of our pandemic disruptions. Creators from around the world submitted their works, vying to showcase their updated versions of city mobility.
The winning entry, ‘City Glinder – Next Gen Footwear’, is an idea that uses a pneumatic mechanical system inside the shoe to make the experience of walking a less tiring one. By making it easier for people to choose ‘walking’ as their mode of transportation, it proposes a radical future of sustainable mobility that can work to reduce congestion, accidents and carbon emissions.
The NewHere Honorable Mention went to ‘S.O.S-Solution Of School-urban plug-in!!’, a new system of education that uses materials ordered online to create adaptable learning spaces in the city.
“Now that we are facing various challenges, including the coronavirus disaster, we must not continue conservatively with the conventional method, but go further. Therefore, the Mobility Innovation Consortium is continuing its efforts to solve social issues without extinguishing the fire of innovation.
At JR East, we alone are caught up in stereotypes and are stuck in the search for a solution. It’s through NewHere that we are able to adopt many ideas and methods to think about the next generation of towns and transportation. I have received many exciting and dreamy ideas.
Moving forward, we will continue to implement innovative initiatives that are not bound by stereotypes, with the aim of developing new businesses and services that have an impact on the world and implementing them in society. ”
Isao Sato, General Manager, Data Strategy Division, Technology Innovation Promotion Headquarters, JR East
佐藤 勲／東日本旅客鉄道株式会社 技術イノベーション推進本部 データストラテジー部門 部長