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Bristol art hub goes on hunt for smart city technologies

£30,000 prize for the winner

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A Bristol-based company wants artists and creatives from around the world to propose new ideas that will challenge the clichés of a smart city.

Watershed, the cross-artform venue/producer behind the Playable City Award, said entrants will need to to submit ideas that use technology in an "integrated and interesting way, injecting a sense of intrigue and meaning to public spaces” to be in with a chance of winning the £30,000 reward.

The competition, which ran for the first time last year, received over 100 applications, including entries from companies in the likes of the US, Japan and Brazil.

While the competition organisers welcomed the geographic spread of the applicants, it was a UK company that took the prize.

Pan Studio, a company from Farringdon, in Central London, won the competition with its Hello Lamp Post project, which enabled thousands of people in Bristol to strike up conversations with physical objects around the city using text messages. 

"Hello Lamp Post is an interactive system that gives everyone in Bristol a new tool to talk with each other, through prompts and questions - all facilitated by the city's physical infrastructure," reads the project's website. "By referencing the thousands of pre-existing identifier codes that label items of street furniture across the whole city, players can send text messages to particular objects, including (but not limited to) lamp posts, post boxes, bollards, manholes, bins, or telegraph poles.

Clare Reddington, executive producer of the Playable City Award, said: “We are again aiming to identify and reward ideas that respond to the context of the city, where openness and permission to play are key.”

Applications for this year’s competition are being accepted up until 11 April. A shortlist will be announced on 28 April and the winner will be revealed at the inaugural Making The City Playable Conference, produced by Watershed and taking place in Bristol 10 – 11 September.

The awards will be judged by the likes of Google Creative Labs director Tom Uglow and the Technology Strategy Board’s Scott Cain, who is executive director of the organisation’s Future Cities Catapult.

Uglow said: “Playable City encourages us to engage and play with these new, invisible, magical possibilities which were previously only for computer geeks; the confidence and comfort to play with digital culture in urban spaces is indicative of our growing comfort with technology. Culture is a mirror to our society and it is great to see such positive and buoyant reflections from the Playable City commission.”

Reddington added: “We can’t wait to see what will be proposed this year and encourage all applicants to be as imaginative and daring as they can."


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