Excellent Idea of the Day: Play Streetpong!

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Streetpong aims to make the time waiting for traffic lights to change a better time.
Sandro Engel and Holger Michel

Waiting for the walk light to change only takes a few seconds, but if you’re eager to go, it can feel like time has stopped. Just ask antsy jaywalkers. Two German university students developed a game called Streetpong that they hope will engage pedestrians.

"The time waiting on traffic lights, that’s a problem for me. Maybe we could make this a better time," said Sandro Engel, an undergraduate at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HAWK) in Hildesheim. He and classmate Holger Michel came up with the idea for Streetpong in response to an assignment on urban interaction given to them by design professor Stefan Wölwer.

The game works when pedestrians on either side of an intersection tap a screen attached to a walk light. During a red light, they play a touchscreen version take on the classic arcade game Pong, sending a soccer ball back and forth with skateboards. Points get racked up and a red bar in the background shows how much time remains. Before the light turns, points are displayed and a winner is declared. Then the two players can greet each other afterward in the intersection.

Engel and Michel produced a Vimeo video for their class (see below) using a green screen and animations to show what the game experience could be like. After that, they began collaborating with the traffic management company SWARCO and the traffic technology firm RTB to make a real Streetpong prototype they hope to finish early next year. They recently put up a placeholder website as well.

The mayor of Hildesheim, Kurt Machens, has also given the students the green light to install Streetpong in the city. There’s no reason the game couldn’t work in other countries, Engel added.

"We are independent from the system so we could install Streetpong on every kind of traffic light," he said.