Saturday, Apr 19, 2014 10:30 am est

Interactive crossing guard connects walkers on Waverly

Posted on February 4, 2014 | by Cassandra Cassillas

Brian Nelson for WSN

On the corner of Waverly Place and Broadway, there lives a sentient crossing sign. His name is Pop Pop.

Three class of 2014 master’s students in technology and design at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program — Alexandra Coym, Sam Slover and Steve Cordova — invented Pop Pop, who debuted in mid-December.

“We did this project because we think more and more street objects are going to become connected and data-aware,” Slover said. “Rather than focus on utilitarian purposes, we’re more interested in how these types of connected objects can brighten life in a city and make people more connected to their city and each other.”

Pop Pop has web and physical computing aspects which allow him to experience a range of six emotions and react in real time to situations including rain, jaywalkers and traffic.

“We chose to focus on pedestrian signals due to their omnipresence and their traditional role of helping people navigate the hectic streets of New York,” Slover said.

On Pop Pop’s website, one can get a feel for the spirit of the project, including who Pop Pop is supposed to be to New York City residents. Pop Pop is designed to be a caring older gentleman who makes sure pedestrians walking through his intersection are safe and happy, according to the website.

Pop Pop does not have official approval from the city, but he has received positive feedback from the students he helps on the way to class. Pop Pop has already made an impression on Steinhardt sophomore Fabian Luna.

“I really think he embodies what I expected when I moved to New York City,” Luna said. “He’s cool, he’s unique, and you can’t find anything else like him anywhere. I love him, and I love that something like that exists.”

He’s also getting notice from non-NYU students, like 45-year-old Michael Ford, a long-time Manhattan resident.

“I walk this way to work everyday and have for the last five years. One day I look up and instead of a little man, this machine is telling me to ‘have a fun day,’ and then a face appears,” Ford said. “It’s pleasant. It breaks the routine. I wish more things in life were like Pop Pop.”

The trio is pleased with their creation and the warm welcome he has received.

“We’re most proud about the positive reactions Pop Pop garnered when he was out on the corner of Broadway and Waverly Place,” Slover said. “There were crowds waiting to interact and say hi.”

The team also has plans to expand the idea of a sentient crossing sign in others directions, such as explaining local history, leading short group games or interactive trivia while pedestrians wait to cross.

“We want to get people away from being so closed off toward each other, and we think that a fun shared experience around a personified street object can be a great way to do it,” Slover said. “Less looking down at your phone, more looking up and interacting with your city and fellow people.”

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 4 print edition. Cassandra Cassillas is a staff writer. Email her at 


Tatiana Baez

Assistant Managing Editor | A CAS junior, Tatiana is studying journalism, environmental science and politics. She’s a bomb editor, as well as the staff’s main source of entertainment because she sings along to every song after 12 a.m. She also writes about culture, science, technology and sex, and her work has been featured in VICE, Motherboard, Elite Daily, amNewYork and others. She enjoys eating Thai food, reading fiction and binge-watching Netflix.

And in case you were wondering how great she really is — “I just can’t get enough of Tatiana” is a direct quote from her EIC at WSN only moments ago.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.