July 1st 2011 sees the launch of a new exhibition at London Transport Museum. Sense and the City runs until 18th March 2012, and "explores how emerging technologies are changing the way we access and experience London and compares this with past visions of the future." I was lucky enough to be invited to the preview last night and knowing the readers of this blog, it will be right up your street, with a perfect mix of new and old technology, interactivity, geeky stuff and London Transport.
I loved looking at predictions in the past, for what our travel would be like now, or even in the 20th Century. Rhian Hughes, 1990's take on space hero Dan Dare from the fifties was on display. Dan travelled in a future London, but still used the London Underground with the trains looking pretty err.. different, although the carriages still have the old knobbly ball straphangers.
A monorail running over Regent Street was proposed by the GLC 44 years ago to try to ease congestion. Looks quite similar in a way to the Thames cable car plans in North Greenwich for next year. The image on the right looks like it could have come straight out of Tron, but is actually Barclay Shaw's "Train of Tomorrow" and inspired by design aspirations for the trains of the 1980s.
Above is a wonderful image of "Robot Railroading" predicting "future trains will be fully automatic - robots that can regulate their own speed and control their own movements to meet the most precise schedules". This was by visual futurist Arthur Radeburgh created 51 years ago as part of a weekly comic strip. Driverless trains already run on the DLR and recurring discussion of the prospect of having driverless trains on the Tube is quite familiar today (especially in times of Tube strikes).
A press button route indicator was installed at Heathrow Central London Underground station 34 years ago. "This nifty journey planner" incorporated TV screen displays and a diagrammatic route map. Only one was ever built.
There's a great interactive section looking at the development of technology and its integration into the social, economic and political fabric London.
"A centre piece of the exhibition is an interactive table with eight screens that allows visitors to view a wealth of film, animations, data visualisations and images on subjects ranging from the cashless society and driverless cars to reactive buildings and augmented reality. Visitors will be invited to join in and give their views about whether the plethora of new digital information and opportunity for access is exciting, a huge worry or a total waste of time."
The exhibition was produced with in partnership with the Royal College of Art and students from the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London have also contributed their ideas for data visualisation and how technology could change how we communicate while on the move.
I liked the idea of "The Window" (pictured above) where the "obtrusive presence of CCTV surveillance" on the Tube, is transformed into an "interactive action" allowing commuters to communicate above and below ground.
Getting this close to a Sinclair C5 is worth the price of entry alone.
Entry to the London Transport Museum is: Adults £13:50; Concessions* £10. All individual tickets purchased after 20 October 2010 now allow unlimited admission to the museum for a 12 month period from date of purchase. More details and opening hours are here. Make the most of your ticket, I'll certainly be back for a few more views of the wonders on display at Sense and the City.