Skip to content

Have opinions about your city? Chat with the street lamp.

People in this story

Experience Magazine, October 2021

West Thurrock, Essex, England. On a balmy spring day, an elegant woman dressed in yellow and a ponytailed girl are walking between clothing stores in Lakeside Shopping Centre. Suddenly, the girl notices a large art installation in the shape of a butterfly. She goes up to it, tugging at her mother’s skirt. The butterfly, formidable in size, comes with a quick response (QR) code, through which it invites passersby to start “chatting” with it. The woman scans the code and types into her smartphone.

Woman: Hello, Butterfly.

Butterfly: Hi there! Thanks for waking me up! I hope you’ve had a good shopping day. I’m here to chat with you about the Big Bugs expedition, tell you a little bit about me, and find out more about your nature interests. Can I ask, what is your favorite season and why?

Woman: I like spring because it’s so balanced and beautiful!

Butterfly: That’s cool, I think my favorite season is fall — I love the changing colors. I’m also interested to know, when you saw me today, did it make you happier?

Woman: Absolutely! Although we need to leave and my daughter can’t stop talking to you!

The chatter above occurred between July 2018 and September 2019, when 12 giant insect sculptures, created for shopping center owner Intu’s “Big Bugs on Tour” exhibition, traveled across various locations in the U.K. and invited shoppers into “conversations.” Behind these amusing exchanges between humans and objects was Hello Lamp Post, a U.K.-based texting platform that aspires to breathe life into city infrastructure and objects and engage citizens through playful yet informative chats.

Continue reading at Experience Magazine.

More Stories

The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output from ChatGPT, March 21, 2023, in Boston.

Why the OpenAI drama matters in Massachusetts

Line graph showing the rise and fall of teen employment. The line peaks at 04/01/20, then dips severely.

Teen unemployment spikes, signals potential weakness in US labor force

Image of a hand holding a graphic that displays the ChatGPT logo.

Generative AI and Policymaking for the New Frontier