Can the technologists, artists, or tinkerers who live next door change how your city works?
The Urban Prototyping Festival (or “UP Fest”) started with a call for citizen-sourced prototypes for addressing a specific urban need or problem and offer a solution that integrates both physical and digital elements. The projects were to utilize existing infrastructure — fences, fire hydrants, et cetera — and be replicable in any city, with a prototype budget of $1,000 or less.
Nearly 100 teams submitted prototypes and a panel of judges selected 18 of these, providing the teams stipends for materials and giving them a platform for sharing their ideas at UP Fest. (...)
A few notable prototypes:
DIY Traffic Controller, developed by Theodore Ullrich, an industrial designer from Tomorrow Lab and his partner Aurash Khawarzad, is comprised of off-the-shelf roadway sensors linked to software that tracks the speed and volume of vehicles – either cars or bikes – moving over the sensors.
the P-Planter, a hack of the traditional Port-a-Potty but one that could address the need for more public urination facilities while also solving the stink issue and adding more plant life to city streets. UP Fest participants made use of the P-Planter urinal at the event (thanks to disposable pee funnels, both male and females could use the outhouse). The urine is routed through a biofilter before being mixed with water and made available to the adjacent plants (large bamboo stalks, in the prototype). Sensors measure the amount of urine entering the urinal and monitor ammonia levels.
the Fruit Fence, converts the ubiquitous chain link fence into an urban plant nursery. Planter bags made of recycled Tyvec building material could be slung over or hung from fencing and used to grow, say, strawberry plants or lemon tree starters. Sensors in the bags alert passersby that the plant needs water or fertilizer, or these signals can be sent to community members via text message.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
25 Oct 2012