Meet the New Playable City Sandbox Commissions

We are thrilled to announce six new Playable City prototypes, funded via MyWorld. After spending the last few years reflecting and gaining feedback on a number of themes including the democratisation of play, who has the right to play and feels safe playing in Bristol city spaces, and what accessibility and inclusion in play mean, we’ve selected these six prototype teams who we believe fulfil the brief and will create free, fun, engaging experiences that we hope you all will enjoy this summer.

Furaha Asani, Watershed’s Research Lead
Playable City Seoul – photo by Jon Aitken

Today, Watershed is delighted to unveil six new Playable City commissions who are awarded £45K to build an urban prototype which will be showcased in Bristol in July 2023. The projects place play at the heart of the city, sparking imagination and conversation about inclusion, sustainability, surveillance and the future of cities. 

Playable City returns to where it all began, Bristol. Since starting in 2012 Playable city has become a global movement of playful city interventions using technology to connect people to each other and the places they live and work. Over the last decade Playable City has worked with over 74 partners and 50 creatives from Lagos to Recife, Tokyo to Melbourne, Singapore to Austin, reaching over one million people globally. 

The Playable City Sandbox that Watershed have created is now a globally recognised format for supporting creative talent and enabling collaborative creative experimentation, and as a region we are so proud of what they have achieved. The selected projects showcase the diversity of thought and influences in our region and demonstrate perfectly how creative technology can be an enabler to connect communities and places in new ways. It’s so exciting to have this opportunity available for West of England businesses and researchers as part of MyWorld, and I can’t wait to try out the resulting prototypes!

Oscar De Mello, MyWorld Operations Director

The commissions will become part of Playable City Sandbox, a shared development programme produced by Watershed as part of MyWorld, which is funded by UK Research and Innovation Strength in Places Fund, to help support and grow the creative technology ecosystem of the West of England.

The Commissions

Squeeze Me created by Emma Powell, Robert Nixdorf, Richard Sewell, Air Giants 

Squeeze Me uses inflatable soft robotic technology to create a compelling and charming tactile and visual experience. Up to ten huge, inflatable and illuminated creatures, wrapped around trees, lamp posts or other street furniture, invite passers-by to hug, squeeze, lean on or poke them. Creatures will respond with shape-change, light and sound and will influence other creatures nearby. 

The House of Weaving Songs created by Fozia Ismail and Ayan Cimli, Dhaqan Collective 

Inspired by the Somali-style nomadic structure called the Aqal, this interactive installation will be co-created with Somali communities in Bristol and beyond, integrating Somali weaving songs and woven tapestries in an experiment to connect the city to cultural practices that can inspire us in our fight to tackle climate change.   

How (not) to be hit by a self-driving car created by Tomo Kihara – Artist and game designer & Saki Coppen and Dan Coppen, Studio Playfool 

A game that challenges people to avoid being detected as human in the eye of an AI. With surveillance cameras becoming smarter and the cities we live in starting to see us back, it poses the question; how do they see us? Anyone can join the game, but can they get from start to finish without being detected? 

Zoomscape Zoetrope created by Jack WatesArtist, designer and educator & Thomas Blackburn – Creative technologist 

A zoetropic light experience, designed to be viewed from moving train windows upon arrival and departure from Bristol Temple Meads station. The content changes with each passing train, creating a new experience for passengers on daily commutes. 

Fireflies, a Glitch by Screaming Color and Arcane created by Mike Salmon – Creative Director and producer, Ossian Whiley – Technical Director & Screaming Color – Artist 

A transformative immersive experience using virtual content to turn the streets and landmarks of Bristol into a colourful, sci-fi-infused digital jungle, awash with mesmerising visuals and local music – no app required. 

Street Pixel created by Tom deMajo – Artist and game designer, Malath Abbas – Artist and game designer & Sarah Selby – Artist and academic  

Street Pixel is hardware graffiti; designed to reinvigorate the relationship between people and their cities by transforming the street below into opportunities for connection and play using creative technology, game design and a sustainable approach to materials and electronic hardware.