The shortlist for the 2016 Playable City Award has just been announced, and you have until 6 October to praise, critique or question the 8 finalists on their ideas to make Bristol a more interactive city. Believing in the philosophy that “Cities that play together stay together”, the Playable City competition puts people and play at the heart of the future city, re-using city infrastructure and re-appropriating smart city technologies to create connections – person to person, person to city.

“The daily commute to work can often be laborious, dull and uneventful but Playable City seeks to change this”


As last year, the Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio is offering a prize of £30,000 to develop ideas which can make Bristol more playable and, in addition, the winner will receive, “practical support and guidance with generous access to facilities to realise their ideas.” The winner will be prototyping at the Pervasive Media Studio where they will be immersed in the vibrant and innovative environment with artists, technologists and other creatives. After the launch in Bristol, there will also be a Playable City global tour.

Joyful Journeys

The theme this year is Journeys, and so each idea aims to make your travels to work, school or elsewhere more inspiring and cohesive, bringing people together through the collaborative use of tech and art.

The daily commute to work can often be laborious, dull and uneventful but Playable City seeks to change this, exploiting the architecture already based in the city.

This year there were 81 entries from 34 countries, which have been whittled down to shortlist of 8. The winner will be revealed at a London launch on 27 October 2016 at the Urban Innovation Centre.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the 8 finalists:

Dance Step City by Gigantic Mechanic

playable-cities-shortlist-dance-step-city-gigantic-mechanic“In Dance Step City, we give passersby license to dance their way down the street, turning a few steps from an ordinary walk into a playful and magical journey.”

Dance Step City want to lure out the inner dancer in you by projecting footsteps onto the ground for you to follow, tailoring the movements to suit your environment.

“We will use a combination of overhead laser projectors, similar to the ones used in laser shows and directional audio to create a rhythmic journey down a section of pedestrian walkway.”

There will be suggestions for steps but there is also the opportunity to add your own flair to your walk to create a unique ‘performative journey’. Inspiration comes from timeless scenes such as Gene Kelly skipping through the wet streets and splashing in the puddles from Singing in the Rain.

Check out this video demonstrating the idea:


Happy Place by Uniform

playable-cities-shortlist-happy-place-uniformHappy Place has thought of the perfect way to make you smile. Their idea is to install interactive displays into signposts which will reveal small excursions; the catch is the person in front of it must look happy.

Using face detection technology, a camera will identify if you’re smiling and if so the signpost will unveil a text, such as an interesting fact about the city and nearby attractions. The full content will only be shown if you smile for long enough and when your smile fades, so does the image.

Recent research has shown smiling increases peoples’ mood, so Happy Place wants to use technology to create a more joyful and cohesive community, one signpost at a time.

Im[press]ion by Mobile Studio Architects

playable-cities-shortlist-impression-moible-studio-architectsIm[press]ion aims to close the void between the digital and the physical. Most people find interaction with strangers largely uncomfortable, especially compared to the digital counterpart of talking online, but Im[press]ion seeks to minimise this gap.

“Formally, Im[press]ion is a scaled-up version of the small pin-screen toys for children. It works using a dipole of dynamic and responsive pin-boards to form two unique, connected surfaces. Together, pin boards create dipoles of identical surfaces, that each displays forms recorded and created by pressing the pins of the other.”

It’s not always evident where these pin-boards are and due to their high sensitivity, can be accidentally activated with one accidental touch. This does mean no technological knowledge is required to be able to take advantage of it. Im[press]ion says that, “Based on intuition users should feel a connection to each other as opposed to the technology that is facilitating it.”

Make Your Rhythm by Etham Souri and Nushin Samavaki

playable-cities-shortlist-make-your-rhythm-nushin-samavaki-elham-souriMake Your Rhythm want to revolutionise your bus stop experience, transforming it from a rather dreary aspect of your day to a more jubilant one.

The seats of this bus stop are designed to mimic swings, and each one is connected to a column of LEDs which light up after detecting movement. Simply put, the more frequent the movement of the swing the more LED lights you activate, motivating you to engage with the activity and move more, or to compete with others to achieve the highest level of colourful LEDs.

This could drag people off their phones and create a more interactive waiting time for all.

Mischievous Footprints by PCT TEAM

playable-cities-shortlist-mischievous-footprints-pct-teamMischievous Footprints want to reintroduce the storytelling aspect into our pavements, bringing back the insights roads would show us years ago, predating the invention of tarmac.

“Using technology so pavements show the changing behaviour of people, a reflection of the natural evolution of roads, Mischievous Footprints shows that the city landscape is alive with new discoveries.”

This is done by implanting footprints onto the pavement, with the aim to cultivate a newfound interest in our cities and the travels people take within it.

Paths by Biome Collective

playable-cities-shortlist-paths-biome-collectiveEssentially, Paths is “a public space musical instrument and light installation”.

The idea focuses on cyclists and their movement in monitored spaces that will initiate “synchronised and beautiful audio and visual representation.”

The idea will benefit all, making the commute for both cyclists and pedestrians undoubtedly more interesting as they listen to the symphonies and observe the playful light displays that respond to the surrounding environment.

Paths will be installed strategically, near points of architectural or environmental interest, busy crossings and areas of pedestrian congestion. It will “utilise a combination of motion sensors, speakers and lights… positioned along cycling paths” to create a unique display to entertain passers-by.

Stop, Wait, Dance, Walk by Hirsch and Mann

playable-cities-shortlist-stop-wait-dance-walk-hirsch-and-mannIn a bid to connect you to the bustling world and draw you away from  the digital world hidden in your phone, Stop, Wait, Dance, Walk wants to create a 30-second party at pedestrian crossings. This will bring together strangers and break the boring wait and walk routine.

Pressing a traffic light button will enable speakers and a dancefloor, bringing the crossing to life. In addition, a spotlight will guide you across the road, imitating the lights of a stage performance.

Stop, Wait, Dance and Walk explain, “As further people join the dance floor, more and more of the crossing’s surrounding furniture will progressively light up and transform into a disco!”

The Conversing Circuit by Urban Conga

playable-cities-shortlist-conversing-circuit-urban-congaThe Conversing Circuit seeks to initiate a conversation between an individual and the environment around them.

Focused on sight, sound and touch, the installation allows you to enter different levels of play with the space around you, “The attractive visuals encourage one to touch the installation in which triggers different sounds and lights to emit from the transit shelter.”

The design is inspired by a map of key locations within the city, indicated by an image that will emit a light or sound when touched.

You can keep up to date with the latest about the competition from Playable Cities by following them on Twitter: @PlayableCity