Talk to a Fire Hydrant in Singapore at the Festival of Tech

SINGAPORE — “Hello lamp post!”
Starting this weekend on Oct. 10, you’ll be able to text a lamp post and receive (kind of) smart replies from the street object.
The project comes from London-based Pan Studio, which was invited to come and inject some personality into our street objects for a week.
We spoke to its founder Ben Barker onsite, who said the objects’ personalities are powered by a database that will learn from other users how to text intelligently. As people send messages to individual objects — from bus stops to the iconic Merlion statue — the engine will prompt the user with questions that will give it information about its surroundings.
These could be questions from a fire hydrant like, “What’s behind me?” After learning, it could be able to make smarter comments to the next person, said Barker.
His team built the database, and roped in a bunch of data scientists at the National University of Singapore to craft more local questions in the local vernacular. “It shouldn’t sound like a British person asking these questions,” he said.
When we tried it on an unsuspecting hydrant, we got a bunch of canned questions and not a whole lot of intelligent interaction. But give it time — we tried it at a media preview and the hydrant hadn’t had much of a chance to talk to people yet. In a week, the hydrant could be a lot smarter after some conversation, said Barker.

The Merlion, on the other hand, looks like it’s gotten a little smarter than the hydrant. This was a chat it had with one of the sponsors, where it managed to return a response based on a previous conversation it had:
The team will keep its eyes on the texts flowing into the database for the week long duration of the installation, so as to be able to flag offensive messages that fly past the swear word detector.
And while the team has put up signs on iconic landmarks in the city, texting won’t just be restricted to these. Nearly everything — from manhole covers to letterboxes — can be textable if they carry an identifying number.
If you text a new lamp post, for instance, it adds a new object into the database that can start collecting information, he said.

You’ll be able to text this manhole cover, too.

Pan Studio first ran the installation in July 2013 in Bristol over a period of eight weeks. “We were worried about rude people, but the responses honestly made us feel so warm.
“Maybe because they’re asked by a hydrant, and in such a personal and innocent way,” said Barker.
The Hello Lamp Post installation is part of the Singapore government’s Festival of Tech that it’s funding through its tech agency, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA).
The festival is meant to celebrate art and technology, so it roped in Manchester, England-based Future Everything to orchestrate the showcase. The organisation has been a longtime player in the digital art scene, and is behind the annual art, music and digital festival formerly known as Futuresonic in England.
Drew Hemment, FutureEverything’s founder and CEO told Mashable that the festival here is the organisation’s first major one in Asia, and that it took six months of development, two years after the IDA first approached his organization with the idea.
“The whole point behind talking to the lamp posts is really the idea of a smart nation, and how we might bring design to make a city more liveable,” he said.
The festival runs between Oct. 10 and Oct. 18.
Via: Mashable UK