Interactive Window Display Turns Storefront into Vast Grassland (Video)

urban prairie image

Image via YouTube video

There's something peaceful about watching tall grass sway on a prairie, like waves. That notion of prairie grass blowing back and forth was captured in a very techy design, which turns a shop window in London into an interactive display of just such a beautiful natural scene. Check out a video of how tall grass behind glass is blown around as people walk past.
In Square Lab created the display, called Urban Prairie. The team states, "Inspired by the rapid reduction of green spaces due to urbanisation of cities, Urban Prairie seeks to recreate a 1000sqm sea of prairie from a 5m wide shop window. Green spaces are known to have positive effects on the image and vitality of spaces and provide valuable resources and focus for the communities. Green spaces provide a respite from the built environment and give an opportunity for recreation; promote health, well-being and quality of life."

It's quite true that being in nature makes you a nicer, happier person, and that the more contact we have with natural surroundings, the better off we all are. However, it's tough to walk through a prairie when you're in the middle of London. That's why Urban Prairie is such an intriguing idea. The graphic display could have been improved to give a stronger sensation of a far-stretching grassland, but the technology behind the display is very interesting.

Using an array of optical sensors and arduino boards, urban prairie captures and comprehends the movements of passersby in front of the installation. This digital data is then translated into kinetic responses via a series of servos; creating the phenomenon of a sea of grass swaying in the breeze. The motion of the 'real' grass is in turn measured by the specially designed software and translated to a field of virtual prairie on screens behind the 'real' grass. The combined result is an 'Urban Prairie' which passersby can engage and interact with through their movements in space. By varying their speed and location in front of the windows, passersby can generate wind disturbance that travels from the 'real' grass to the virtual prairie seamlessly and eventually fading off into the horizon.

Personally, it just makes me want to be out of the city and on a hike in the hills even more -- fake naturescapes can be even more depressing than not seeing nature at all. But I'm sure that's not the case for everyone. There are likely lots of people who will take whatever they can get, even if it's behind a shop window.

If anything, the display makes people remember the concept of urbanization and the loss of natural habitat through human development... and maybe want to get out, go on a hike, and assist with the conservation of what prairie land and other wild areas we have left.

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