As any honest city dweller will tell you, the flashing lights, crowds of people and constant sirens found in urban environments can take their toll on even the most upbeat urbanite.
All that concrete and the fast-paced, high-stress lifestyle that accompanies living in a city do not necessarily make for happy inhabitants.
However to fight back against the encroaching gloominess of urban life, a wave of artists, designers and technologists are finding innovative, original ways to insert a bit fun and playfulness into the drudgery of the modern metropolis, all thanks to the accessibility of new technology.
For example, Shadowing, a project conceived by designers Jonathan Chomko and Matthew Rosier, takes inspiration from perhaps one of the most universally synonymous symbols of city life: the simple street light.
Technologically transforming the lights into projectors that record the shadows cast by people that walk beneath them, the Shadowing lamps replay the movements of previous passersby, making even the loneliest late-night walk home feel a little less solitary.
The project recently won Bristol’s Playable City Award, a program that champions ideas that inject a bit of tech-assisted excitement into the urban routine.
In a similar vein, and the winners of the same competition the previous year, PAN Studio’s Hello Lamp Post proposal saw the city streets become a whole lot chattier.
Fitting objects in public spaces, such as post boxes, park benches and, (as the name suggests), lamp posts, with a special code people could text to receive a reply from the object itself. This reply would be a question, such as “If you listen carefully, what’s the quietest thing you can hear?” or “What can you see behind me?”
People’s answers were recorded and then passed on to future users, thereby creating a dialogue between inhabitants and their city. All this was to help people reconnect with their surroundings and challenge them to think differently about the objects they pass everyday.
The idea of a city that talks to you seems to be a popular one. Digital agency Y&R and design studio YesYesNo had this in mind when they took on the challenge of encouraging Americans to drink more water.
Their Drink Up Fountain set up a residency in New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park, and when the lips of thirsty passersby touched the water, a circuit was completed and the fountain asked the understandably surprised drinker a question.
Using open-source devices like an Arduino and a Raspberry Pi, the Drink Up Fountain is an example of how a more accessible level of technology is making cities more interactive, communicative, and quite simply, more fun.