Amsterdam-based design studio Vouw are amongst those who are paving the way towards a slowtech future. Whilst technological advancements normally aim to increase productivity and greatly speed up the pace of our world, Vouw wants to reverse this trend. They want to harness their technological know-how to create state-of-the-art tech that actually slows us down, reconnects us to each other, and our surroundings.
Slowtech: design that slows people down to bring them together in the real worldVouw
Vouw was founded in Amsterdam in 2017, with this very dream in mind. Working at the intersection of art, technology and social cohesion, they rejected the belief that technological advancements are all about efficiency and productivity.
Vouw’s latest creation, Bloomlight, will premier at the Taiwan Lantern Festival in Hsinchu this summer. The Bloomlights are a series of lanterns that respond to passersby like an organic creature. Upon sensing a human, the Bloomlight slowly bends to meet them whilst unfurling its blooms to reveal a soft light, much like a curious organism might. The passerby experiences a rare sensation of being seen, and responded to, by a friendly-seeming machine, whilst they are comforted by the bloom’s warm glow. As they walk away, the Bloomlight gradually returns to its upright resting position, closes its bloom and dims its light, just like nothing ever happened. Taking inspiration from nature, Bloomlight reimagines what street lighting could be: interactive, calming, breathtaking. The philosophy of the Bloomlight also encompasses a statement about light pollution; the light of the bloom only shines bright when it is needed, the rest of the time it is dim and passive, giving centre stage to the starlight above.
The Bloomlight was developed over a four month period of intensive deliberation, testing and prototyping; many of the elements of construction were manufactured on site, using Vouw’s in house 3D printer and laser cutting machine. Each material that has gone into the Bloomlight is incredibly well thought out. It took hours of testing, for example, to create a bloom that was both flexible and strong. In order to respond to its environment, the Bloomlight uses Lidar scanners, a type of laser sensing technology that is also used in self-driving vehicles. The device scans the environment around the Bloomlight and identifies moving objects, signalling to the Bloomlight where it should bend towards. Considerable programming work has occurred behind the scenes to enable the Bloomlight to distinguish a human being from say, a swaying bush or scuttling hedgehog.
It is clear that a lot of thought, patience and high-technology has been poured into the process of creating this revolutionary street light. Through Bloomlight, just walking through city streets becomes an artistic and inspiring experience. In the future, Vouw hopes that the Bloomlight, and subsequent slowtech interventions will be found all over our cities, creating a technology infused public space which comforts, connects and slows down passersby. Passersby might take more time to delight in the streets they walk down and city dwellers come to appreciate their public space more as it becomes interactive and even awe-inspiring.