"AR' city" to Exhibit Playful Tech In Our City For the Festival Of The Mind

Dr Bobby Nisha is working with social enterprise AALFY to create interactive experiences that can reflect and map different emotions associated with certain spaces in Sheffield.

A video reflecting on Ar' City 2019

Technology has changed everything over the past few decades from the way we work to the way we interact with each other, but can it change how we see our city?

AR’ City thinks it can. From the 22nd September, AR’ City will be exhibiting their playful tech in the Moor as a part of Festival Of The Mind. AR’ City is a project run by the social enterprise AALFY in partnership with the University of Sheffield and tech organisations in Sheffield to use smart technology to improve Sheffield.

The need for smart cities was identified in a government report as early as 2013. The move towards smart cities provides “cities with greater autonomy to achieve the outcomes which meet their own particular needs” and helps “develop a vision for city regeneration.”

Inspired by the concept of a playable city, AR’ City has developed playful tech to change the way we interact with our environment and explore the sense of belonging in a space. The theme of the project is ‘young people’ as the ideas for the playable tech were developed by young people. The prototypes of these concepts will be on display in the Moor throughout the event.

“This will be a tremendous opportunity to kindle the aspirations of young people and to have feelings of citizens mapped into the fabric of the city; to demonstrate they are the soul and an essential part of the city’s landscape. The initiative will engage our Sheffield community, especially young adults, so they can meaningfully contribute to the redevelopment of their cityscape,” said Dr Bobby Nisha, Academic Lead and Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies and Planning from the University of Sheffield.

“The reason why we started AR’ City was to give more power to young people, to give them an opportunity to shape the way the city feels and looks,” said Zak Ahmed, project lead. “What we’ve done is that we went to speak to 90-100 young people in different schools, asking them what issues they would solve in Sheffield if they have all the power and technologies.”

The original concepts for the project came from young people in Sheffield. They identified several social issues to address, ranging from health and wellbeing, environmental issues, community cohesion and urbanisation. Student volunteers from the University of Sheffield then developed the technology.

Thomas Phillips, a volunteer for the project, said, “I joined AR’ City because it was the first forum I had seen that brought power to young students, simultaneously inspiring a new generation of engineers and positively impacting the city. AR’ City is a platform through which we can show the people of Sheffield that we care about how it turns out.”

Dr Bobby Nisha is also involved with another project for Festival of the Mind. Future High Street: Experience Fargate is an initiative which enables people to experience the what a redeveloped Fargate streetscape would look like in Augmented Reality.