Urbanimals 2015 Award Winner (photo by Paul Blakemore)

Fourth international Playable City Award Shortlist Revealed

From emotionally responsive signposts to mischievous footprints, the Playable City Award’s eight shortlisted projects place journeys at the heart of the future city. Now open for your comments.

We are thrilled to unveil the shortlist for the fourth international Playable City Award, which invites artists, designers, architects, technologists and creative practitioners from all over the world to propose new and distinctive ideas to respond to the theme Journeys. The shortlist is now live and open for your comments.

From emotionally responsive signposts to mischievous footprints, the Playable City Award’s eight shortlisted projects place journeys at the heart of the future city. Playable City re-uses city infrastructure and re-appropriates smart city technologies to create connections – person to person, person to city. Through interaction and creative installations it unlocks a social dialogue, bringing the citizens into a city development conversation.

With more than half the world’s population now living in cities, transport infrastructure is a key focus of the smart city. But how city dwellers feel about their journeys, what form they would like them to take and how they spend their time is rarely considered.

With 81 entries from 34 countries around the world, the shortlisted projects each found unique and creative ways to celebrate the journey within a Playable City. The eight projects are now available to view online for the public to ask questions of the creators and to share their comments with the Award judging panel. The winner will be announced at a London launch on Thu 27 Oct at the Urban Innovation Centre.

In addition to the £30,000 award, the R&D commission offers the winner dedicated practical support and guidance with generous access to facilities to realize their ideas. Whilst prototyping their project at Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol, they will also become part of a vibrant community of artists and creative technologists, providing extensive opportunities for collaboration. The winning idea will be prototyped and publicly tested in Bristol, UK, and then tour to the other Playable City cities globally.

Claire Reddington, Creative Director, Watershed & Executive Producer, Playable City Award, says,

'In the last four years, Watershed’s Playable City has grown globally, presenting projects in Lagos (Nigeria), Tokyo, the US and more. This global reach is reflected in the breadth and ingenuity of the shortlisted ideas. We are excited to share them with the public for their contribution and welcome the conversations it will inspire.’

The eight shortlisted projects are:

The Conversing Circuit | Urban Conga, United States

The Conversing Circuit is an installation that uses uniquely conductive visuals to create a conversation between people waiting at bus stops. The attractive visuals encourage passengers to touch the installation, which triggers different sounds and lights to emit from the transit shelter. The design of the circuit is based off a map of key locations within the city. An icon that emits a certain sound or light within the space represents each of these key locations. The artists wish to promote community and connection through sound, light and touch in expected locations.

Happy Place | Uniform, UK

Happy Place brings signposts to life, generating experiences to move visitors and local residents both physically and emotionally across the city. Signposts equipped with interactive displays detect the expression of the person in front of it and respond accordingly. A smile generates text that will slowly start to appear on the sign display, disappearing again when the user stops smiling. By using stories about the area gathered from local citizens for use on the signs, Happy Place aims to breathe new life and meaning to street signs in the digital age, bringing people together in a playful and engaging way.

Mischievous Footprints | PCT Team, Japan

Mischievous Footprints invites citizens to play as they travel through the city, by giving their footprints the power to roam freely. Absorbed in smartphones, headphones and other technology, how often do city dwellers actually pay attention to the roads they walk on, or the people or things passed on the way? Using embedded pressure sensors and LED lights, this project captures the footstep data of people walking on the pavement, leaving a trail of glowing footprints behind them. At times the footprints break free, running ahead of their owners to explore the pavements seemingly of their own free will.

Make Your Rhythm | Nushin Samavaki & Elham Souri, Iran

Make Your Rhythm reimagines the bus stop, transforming the tiresome wait into a joyful and visually exciting experience. The seats are redesigned to appear like swings, but the direction of movement is vertical rather than horizontal. Each seat is linked to a column of LED lights that responds to movement. Whether creating a personal, playful light show, or competing with others to activate the most lights, Make Your Rhythm will completely transform the bus stop experience.

Stop, Wait, Dance, Walk | Hirsch and Mann Ltd, UK

Stop, Wait, Dance, Walk transforms the pedestrian crossing into a 30-second party.We travel the city in our own worlds, often disconnected from our surroundings but the ingredients for a magical moment are always around us - lights, noise and people. Stop, Wait, Dance, Walk uses existing infrastructure which is activated when a pedestrian crossing button is pushed, lights flash, a dance floor appears and speakers play music bringing strangers together for a moment of shared fun.

Im[press]ion | Mobile Studio Architects, UK

Im[press]ion Resembling scaled up versions of the small pin screen toys for children, connected installations, will be sited within city transit stops offering a spontaneous connection between complete strangers who push the pins to connect with strangers in other places. We are born with and rely on our innate sense of touch, using it every day in all aspects of our lives, yet our digital selves are devoid of this most fundamental human notion. The project aims to blur the boundary between the digital and the physical by reducing human interaction to its most simple form – touch.

Dance Step City | Gigantic Mechanic, UK

Dance Step City gives passersby license to dance their way down the street, turning a few ordinary steps into a playful and magical journey using overhead laser projectors.Few things transport us as completely as when we give ourselves over to music and let our feet start dancing. However, some may need a bit of prompting to get in the groove. Inspired by Singin’ in the Rain and classic children’s games like hopscotch, this project uses a set of projected LED dance steps environment as an opportunity for participants to add individual flair to create their own unique journey.

Paths | Biome Collective, UK

Paths is a music and light installation celebrating the journey of cyclists traversing the urban environment. Movement through monitored spaces triggers synchronized and beautiful audio/visual representations, transforming the cyclists’ daily commute into a playful performance to be experienced by all. Playful, soothing sounds and lights created in response to the environment highlight the flow and dynamic nature of movement on the cycle paths using a combination of strategically positioned motion sensors, speakers and lights.

You can comment until Wed 5 Oct, with judging on Thu 6 Oct. The winner will be announced later in the month. The panel of judges are waiting for your questions and comments to help inform their decision.