As Wired Magazine puts it, giant public iPhones are about to invade the streets of Manhattan.
Public access to social media and the digital highway was on the forefront of New York City’s agenda when its Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications launched its Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge last December. The contracts for the city’s 11,000-plus pay phone expires in 2014, leaving a wide-open opportunity for an enterprising company looking to breathe life into a dying medium.
According to Wired, there are less than 500,000 pay phones left in the USA — and my personal experience says half of them are broken or coated in grime — compared to 327 million-plus active mobile phones in this country.
The contest winner, “NYFi” (pictured above) was picked this month out of 125 submissions. Proposed by Sage and Coombe Architects, the Pay Phone of the Future combines a phone with a subway and bus fare kiosk to reduce street clutter. On its huge TV-like touch-screen, there are apps that would let you call a cab or find a restaurant. Expect a few photo sharing apps to be sure.
New York City is not committed to adopting the design. Officials said they were trying to spark a conversation about what communication tools should be made available in a public fashion.
If you are younger than 30, odds are high that you’ve never used a pay phone, let alone an old-fashioned phone booth, which seems as dated as the record player. The death of the phone booth might not have affected our day to day lives, but the impact on pop culture has been brutal. Superman, of course, used them to seamlessly change himself from and back to mild-mannered journalist Clark Kent.
In the movies, journalists got all their anonymous tips at pay phones. And master criminals would taunt the police from them. Let’s not forget all those dramatic rainy scenes in John Cusack movies in which his character is heartbroken trying to win back the girl who left him. Sorry, boombox. The pay phone is the secret behind Cusack’s romantic appeal.
The creepy ghosts of yesterday’s ubiquitous pay phones are a reminder that technology stops for no one.
As Pongr continues to develop the computer vision and artificial intelligence behind the advertising world’s best photo-sharing platform for brands, it’s a lesson we keep reminding ourselves.
(What would YOU like to see in a public smartphone kiosk? Drop us a line on the Pongr Facebook page!)