With hardware getting smaller and cheaper every day, the “smart city” seems like a given. Sensors embedded in streets, light posts, park benches, or any other part of the urban fabric could track anything: foot traffic, cars, energy use, whatever, all in the name of efficiency.
But, say critics, that’s sterile, boring, and a little creepy (think “Minority Report“). What we need is to deploy these sensors in the name of whimsy.
Enter the “playable city.” UK-based Watershed has been awarding £30,000 prizes to projects that use technology to inspire a playful urban environment. The winner last year, “Hello Lamp Post,” let citizens of Bristol send text messages to objects like postboxes, lamp posts, and more, which would respond with brief conversations.This year’s winner, which will be deployed this fall, projects the shadows of invisible people under a lamppost. Anyone walking past will have their shadows recorded and played back for the next walker.