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Remember talking lamp posts? Meet this year's Playable City winner

Submitted by jesse_berst on June 13, 2014

Last year the Playable City Award went to an augmented reality project that allows residents to have pretend conversations with lamp posts, street signs and other urban objects. At the time I thought it was a pretty dumb way to get smart when there are so many greater needs in cities today.

Unfortunately, I can't say this year's winner strikes me as an improvement. It's described as a Shadowing project that uses infrared technology to re-animate the streets of Bristol, UK – projecting people's shadows after they have moved on to those who come by later. Or as the award site describes it:

"The project offers passers-by a trace of those who have walked the same path moments, days or weeks before, at times like ghostly time travellers, at others more like a more playful Peter Pan. As well as peeling back the traces of the city’s nooks and crannies, Shadowing offers an exploration of the disconnectedness that technology can create between strangers, the role of light in creating a city’s character, and the Image removed.unseen data layers and surveillance culture that pervades our contemporary urban spaces."

All of which made me go take another look at what the organizers mean by "playable." Here's what I found: "The Playable City is a new term, imagined as a counterpoint to ‘A Smart City’. A Playable City is a city where people, hospitality and openness are key, enabling its residents and visitors to reconfigure and rewrite its services, places and stories."

I don't have anything against the idea of "playable" cities – that's part of the livability agenda the Council promotes. But can't we invent smart cities with "playable" features that actually add value to people's lives?

Maybe I'm missing something. Please use the Comment form below to set me straight. (You need to be a registered member of the Council to participate in the conversation, that's a quick, free, one-time process. Join now!)


Jesse Berst is the founding Chairman of the Smart Cities Council. Click to learn about the benefits you receive when you join the Council for free. Follow @Jesse_Berst and connect on LinkedIn.