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The Sensory City Philosopher

Architect, engineer, and inventor Carlo Ratti envisions a future for urban design that's interactive.
Carlo Ratti evangelizes the concept of a “real-time city,” where physical and social networks are in constant interplay, knitted together by a layer of digital sensors.
Carlo Ratti evangelizes the concept of a “real-time city,” where physical and social networks are in constant interplay, knitted together by a layer of digital sensors.Daniele Ratti

If you ever have two hours to kill in Cambridge, Massachusetts, skip the museums and take a seat looking onto the sidewalk. Listen for laughter and plans being hatched; watch for lots of texting and Google Maps-orienting. At least that’s what Carlo Ratti recommends. “It’s like you do in Paris,” he said. “Just observe the life unfolding before you”—online and in the flesh.

People-watching may have been a slightly wistful tip. On a daffodil afternoon made more spectacular by an earlier forecast of rain, Ratti was stuck inside a glass-walled conference room at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, taking team meetings, client phone calls, and media interviews.