Sometime in 2014, New York City’s agreement with its payphone vendor will expire–the final death rattle for a technology long eclipsed by mobile devices. As we noted earlier this month, a design competition called Reinvent Payphones is helping the city generate ideas about what should be done with the 11,412 archaic hookups once the contract is up. It’s a tidy way for the city to drum up attention for its tech industry while involving local designers in a debate about public infrastructure.
One of the more interesting proposals came from Frog, which won the “visual design and user experience” category for a column of four screens called Beacon. Unlike many of the other proposals, Beacon’s interface is gestural, meaning you’d speak to activate the displays and communicate using hand motions, eye movement, and facial expressions. It’s built upon a 3-D sensor called Capri (designed by PrimeSense, the original developers of Kinect), which senses motion directly in front of it, while a set of microphones and speakers drown out nearby car horns and chatter with white noise. “Recognition technologies and algorithms have become sophisticated enough to recognize a very broad set of gestures, gesture combinations, and normal speech voice commands and can respond very accurately to the user’s intent,” Jonas Damon, Frog’s creative director, tells Co.Design. “In other words, it won’t be annoying to stand next to when you have no intention of using it!”