Urbanism | City At Play – Of Talking Lamp Posts And Whispering Mailboxes
Does this blog need one more wonderful example of using creativity, art and technology to to foster engagement with the city? Of course it does!
Watershed, a cross-platform cultural and art production agency based in Bristol, UK, recently commissioned a competitive award called the Playable City Award 2013. The idea was to encourage the use of creative technology and art to create a sense of challenge and surprise to encourage people to interact with the city – in this case, Bristol itself. The winning entry by London based experience design studio PAN, does exactly that, and how!
Titled “Hello, Lamp Post!“, it will enable citizens to use a smartphone to do just that – talk to street furniture. You read that right. So, in simple terms, if you have a smartphone and are in Bristol this summer, you will be able to hold conversations with lamp-posts, mailboxes, or even a manhole cover.
Though it sounds a bit nuts, the technology behind it is fairly simple – every piece of street furniture has a code stamped on it that is used by the civic authorities to maintain these facilities. PAN’s interactive project uses the same open system of codes to build a network of interactiveness into the city’s street furniture, allowing people to engage with what are a) perhaps the most ubiquitous and ignored parts of a city, and interestingly, b) what are the endpoints of the Smart City. So it essentially brings the concept of Internet of Things to the physical city. The idea is to weave “play” into an essentially serious, hard coded environment and encourage regular, lay-people to have fun with their city. Additionally, every ‘conversation’ will be recorded and fed back into a system that can be accessed by anyone ‘playing the game’, so to speak.
Slightly weird, but such fun, when you think of it. And so many possibilities for future application! To begin with it allows people to explore their city in a new way, through a series of new benchmarks. It will allow people to interact with each other across the city, hold conversations around a medium of street furniture, as crazy as that sounds. I think I’ll visit Bristol this summer just to play.
Oh, and if you are interested in the Internet of Things in the context of the city and public realm, you should definitely pick up this book. Highly recommended.