Sandro Engel and Holger Michel, two interaction design students in Hildesheim, Germany, came up with STREETPONG, a pretty nice concept for an urban game that could be installed in every city in the world.
The game, which is still a prototype, has to be installed on traffic lights for pedestrians. It enables pedestrians who have to wait to cross the junction to play a Pong game with someone else who’s waiting on the opposite site of the road. STREETPONG works with two touch screens on both sides of the road that are installed right at the place were you usually finds the traffic light button. As soon as the traffic light turns red, you can play. When the traffic light is green the little screen shows how much time there’s left to cross the street.
STREETPONG is a great intervention and a clever idea, that, of course, reminds us of the Volkswagen’s internationally acclaimed Fun Theory. It potentially makes public spaces a little bit more fun and perhaps also a little bit more save. Instead of punishing pedestrians who cross the road illegally, one should give them something to do while waiting. That’s how modern cities try to solve their problems. Also spontaneous interactions in public domain are stimulated by this traffic light game.
As explained with the video on Vimeo, the students did not get permission from the city authorities to install the game, Which I think is completely ridiculous. Hildesheim could not have only been the first city in the world to have STREETPONG traffic lights, but thanks to some dull bureaucrats this chance is spoilt and Hildesheim will always stay what it is right now — a place that none of us know and will never go to.