Crosswalk Pong Auf Deutschland

What is there to do in America while you’re waiting to cross the street at an intersection? Nothing; listen to that impatient clicking sound, and if you live in a busy city, pray you don’t get plowed into. In Germany however, pedestrians will now get to play Pong with the person on the other side.That’s right, as a means to encourage people to just hang in there and wait out the cycle instead of darting across against the light, design students [Sandro Engel] and [Holger Michel] came up with an entertaining incentive involving a potential conversation sparking duel with your impromptu counterpart across the street.

The first of these interactive cross-walk indicators was installed recently in Hildesheim, Germany, two years after the duo first designed them back in 2012. There was a little friction about installing the touch screen equipped modules initially, but after a proper redesign for functionality taking traffic science into account, the city authorities caved and allowed them to test the wings of their progressive idea on one city intersection so far. The mindset behind the invention of these indicators is part of a larger movement to make public spaces safer through means of fun and entertainment. Instead of threatening to punish those partaking in unsafe activity with fines, the notion is to positively enforce following rules by adding a level of play. While pedestrians have the right to walk, the screen shows how much time is left to make their away across, and for the duration that traffic is rolling through, the score will be kept for an individual game of pong for those on either side of the light.

Since the idea is generating some interest, the group of developers involved with the project have moved to promote their work (now branded as Actiwait) with an Indiegogo campaign. They hope to turn their invention into a full fledged product that will potentially be seen all over the world. Admittedly, it’d be charming to see this sort of technology transform our urban or residential environments with a touch of something that promotes friendly social interaction. Hopefully my faith in our worthiness to have nice things is warranted and we start seeing these here in America too. Nice work!

Check out this encounter with the street indicator here. The guy introducing the invention loses to the girl on the other side, but they share a high-five as they pass in the street:

34 thoughts on “Crosswalk Pong Auf Deutschland

  1. Grammar Nazi incoming:

    In Germany = In Deutschland
    In German = Auf deutsch

    Depends on what you want to say. The term “Auf Deutschland” doesn’t make any sense in that context. :P

      1. Well he fooled you good. You can say “Auf Deutsch” (in german) but you cant say “Auf Deutschland” (on germany), unless you want to say it as a toast: “Auf Deutschland!” (to Germany!)

        1. Not entirely correct “Hass auf Deutschland” (hate for germany) is a perfectly valid construct, and not exactly a toast. Or if you allow a bit of slang, “Geil auf Deutschland” (horny for germany)…

  2. I would love to see more things like that but the past has shown that you can’t do it as idiots will destroy it within a few weeks. For example we had an old english telephone cell with books in it. Kind of an open library, burned down after a few month.

      1. Don’t worry. The same problems are available for free in Germany (in Deutschland, not “auf Deutschland”). I doubt the “Street Pong” will ping much longer than it takes an American to say “peng” (which, then again, might be quite some time, if that American is guided by native jelly doughnuts as far as spelling or pronunciation is concerned).

    1. (ahem!) “vandalism resistant”, just as armored vests are not “bullet proof” but “bullet resistant”,
      This is similar to making something “foolproof”, somebody then goes out and makes a better fool.

    1. Are you a severelly ill person with non-existent ot non fonctioning immune system? If not, you are being way overly cautious. as Whatnot said, you open doors, use an ATM, hand money, use pens on malls… Stop worring and live your life.

      Unless you live in Liberia…

  3. What a wonderfully creative idea! I like using the East German crossing man symbol as well (it makes it a bit like “Frogger”).

    Yes, idiots will vandalize it, just as dogs will pee on fire hydrants. So, you make it easy to fix. (My gawd; something that’s repairable? What a concept!) :-)

    Or… many crosswalks already have two buttons (to say “I want to cross), and an LED display with the “Walk / Don’t Walk” (and sometimes a timer) message. You could repurpose these existing bulletproof buttons for your left/right paddle controls, and use the similarly indestructible message for the display.

  4. The video above is a mockup! The idea went kinda viral so they made it reality, and this is the real thing:

    Also Pengutronix (which is a company for embedded Linux in Hildesheim) showed it at Electronica in Munich! Tried it and it works great! It runs Linux of course ;-) and the two devices communicate through wifi.

  5. Neat idea, but waste of resources unless I’m the only curmudgeon here. Only one-on-one action right? What about the other 20 people waiting? Button re-use? What about someone arriving during game needing to go in opposite direction? Buttons usually on same pole and sometimes streetside in US…either hard to play. Vision system for hand waving input by waiting teams? Fine until privacy nuts get involved or someone falls into traffic going for the “ball”.

    [curmudgeon comment] Do we really need to games to hold our attention these days? And here I was thinking keeping one’s wallet and or life was incentive enough. You have the choice to cross or not. If it doesn’t work out how you expected, that’s on you. No game is going to put a significant dent in that no matter how well designed, thus a waste of resources.

    1. [to bwmetz] Sure, there are lots of drawbacks, but nothing is perfect and without risk. The resources here aren’t “wasted” any more than they are on the billions of other things we waste our computer’s time on. I still think it’s worth setting up a demo, and see how people react. Your concerns could then be addressed if they proved to be big problems.

      [to CBOB] No; think of it as evolution in action. :-)

      1. ^agree. It’s something that transforms our space in a positive way. People will always get hit by cars because they’re impatient, and ass holes will always vandalize things, but that doesn’t mean that this idea won’t bring about its own positive effect if more widely adopted. Anything that talks up to the citizens of the world rather than down will have its own subliminal influence. Implementing these may set the expectation that people aren’t suppose to act like barn-yard animals… and slowly, little by little the world will become better in general. Something has to set the tone.

        1. “People will always get hit by cars” uh, that’s disgusting. Thank goodness the Strong Towns organization is starting to undo some of the hilariously anti-human roadway engineering from the 1950s, and that some American cities are finally embracing “Vision Zero” plans (though, enforcement, alas, remains weak). Do let me know when they install beg buttons for the car drivers to hop out, tap, and perhaps get a green in a cycle or two.

    1. Definitely an amazing concept, but probably rather expensive.

      Also, I love/hate how journalists have no understanding of percentages:

      Video: “81% more people stopped”
      Article: “Jaywalking plumeted by 81%” No. We can’t say anything like that without knowing the original ratio of those who stopped to those who jaywalked.

      1. The way they did it probably was expensive. But it was a “proof of concept”. I have a feeling that you could just put a camera on the pole, aimed at a spot on the sidewalk marked as the “dance floor”. A clever programmer could extract the body motions from someone moving in that box, and display it on the LED dot-matrix display. If nothing “interesting” is happening in that box, just use one of the previously saved animations. The computer could be little more than a smartphone or Raspberry Pi.

        There are LOTS of possibilities here! :-) Let’s do something before some marketeer decides crosswalk signs are a perfect place to put up even more advertising.

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