The weekend of 4-5 November, SCiM-MK was pleased to participate in the ESRC Festival of Social Science. Recognising the limited public recognition and debate about smart cities, we took some exciting smart technologies to Central Milton Keynes's thecentre:MK. Members of the public were invited to experiment with those smart technologies and to talk with us about their experiences.
We had two pieces of tech on display. Most excitingly, we were able to showcase how novel augmented reality technology might change the way we interact with the city using a hololens headset. Our project partners, Virtual Viewing, had developed an interactive experience booth within which hololens wearers were able to bring up video and data about our virtual Milton Keynes cityscape. We were also able to demonstrate other modes of urban data visualisation using an iPad.
We used this as a prompt for conversations. Perhaps most illuminatingly, the terminology of 'smart city' is relatively unknown amongst the public. That said, many people could think of ways smart technology were changing the ways they lived in cities. Broadly, the Milton Keynes residents we spoke to were optimistic about the future of their city as it got smarter, and excited about the possibilities that new technology could offer. But that didn't mean that smart got an unconditional green light. People are worried about how smart might exclude certain groups. They are also anxious about what might happen to their personal data.
The event generated some fascinating conversations amongst members of the community and food for thought as we move toward the second half of SCiM-MK.