Streetpong: Traffic Light of the FutureWaiting for the traffic light to turn green can sometimes be frustrating, especially if you’re pressed for time. In Germany, there might be a solution to this problem. Two students from the HAWK technical college in Hildesheim have combined daily life with a classic video game; they call it, simply, “Streetpong.” The video of Streetpong went viral with almost half a million views online. Holger Michel and Sandro Engel showed their idea in practice on a traffic light in the city of Hildesheim. Overall positive feedback is a clear indication for great interest in their idea.

Neither of them expected such a response. The idea is as simple as the world-known Pong game, where two opponents shoot balls back and forth, a bit like in tennis (or ping pong — go figure!). When one player doesn’t deflect the ball, a point goes to the opponent, and vice versa. Michel and Engel transported this game to the traffic light — only conceptually, of course. It’s the beloved classic in an unlikely environment. By doing so, the waiting period for the green light could become much less tedious.

The idea came about during the seminar entitled “Interaktive Medien II” (interactive media) by Prof. Stefan W├Âlfer. Michel and Engel chose the subject area “Urban Interfaces,” which is the study of how to interconnect design, technology, and public spaces. Yet the Pong game wasn’t the first idea they had. Initially, they thought of an app that helps find beautiful green areas or benches at scenic locations. This wouldn’t have been original, though. So they asked friends, fellow students, and relatives for possible ideas and thoughts on the matter. Sandro Engel ultimately came up with the idea of making the waiting time at traffic lights less boring.

It’s perhaps ironic that so many believed this demonstration to be real. In actuality, it’s just a very well-made synthesis of CG animation and live-action footage. Notwithstanding, this project is meant to increase road safety by making it more interesting to wait at a red light. In concept, while the traffic light is green, the touch display will not react to any impulses. It would be somewhat counterproductive if people would not stop playing the game, which is why there’s a clear distinction between red and green phases! Every time the red phase ends, it terminates the game automatically.

To program the game is relatively easy. It would be much harder to get such a project, as they say greenlit. In Germany, especially, such a drastic alteration of traffic lights would meet great opposition. The only way to show how this could work was to create a simulation. The real-life setting is the traffic light at the Almstorkreuzung in Hildesheim.

Indeed, it would be a wonderful reality to play Streetpong. The possibility of this becoming real seems rather unlikely, though. Perhaps the positive feedback from the Internet community can help persuade the city of Hildesheim to implement this new kind of entertainment. Until then, waiting at traffic lights remains rather boring. Meanwhile, you can play the classic Pong for free over at the Atari online arcade.