AUDI Urban Future Summit

May-September 2011 | GEElab Contributors: Dr Steffen P Walz, Daniel Wahl

The Audi Urban Future Summit 2011 was an interdisciplinary and interactive symposium hosted by the Audi Urban Future Initiative and curated by Stylepark, on the subject of future urban, personal mobility, urban development, and the role of the Internet and technology in all this. The 2011 summit focused on the question: “Which energies and forces will change the city of the future in 2020 – and what relationships will exist between these forces?”

The following video trailer nicely sums up the topic:

Audi Urban Future Summit from onlab on Vimeo.

The Future Car: A Networked Interaction Vehicle on the Move

The Audi Urban Future Initiative invited the GEElab to present at the summit in the "Energies of Data" workshop. We conceptually designed visions at the interplay of humans, personal mobility and the cities of the future - looking through a game thinking lens. Here is a wrap up of our hypotheses and of our presentation.

In the future, we will stop navigating, because the automobile will have transformed into a kind of interaction platform on wheels ­-- an inhabitable, comfortable, networked mobile computer on the move, with the promise of a myriad of urban apps reaching out and feeding back. This loss of control over the actual driving experience is a great chance for game and interaction design researchers to reinvent what makes the driving experience fun, engaging and sporty, and how to turn the passengers into heroes of their journey. With the help of our computed carriage and its apps, services and functionalities, we will start expressing ourselves, competing with others, exploring the physical worlds both passing by as well as the ones virtually accessible, and we will collaborate with others playfully, or productively, thereby enjoying the urban ride.

Have a look at the full presentation PDF.


Here is a wrap up of the presentation and the scenarios we presented:

Urban Flow Today

First, we explained that today's concept of urban flow looks at personal mobility from the standpoint of physical flow. We then posed the question "How will personal mobility make a city liveable & citizens positively minded?", thus pointing at a different kind of understanding of flow in the context of future cities and future personal mobility.

Welcome To Topolis

We then introduced the concept of Urban Topology, i.e. a network of nodes in which each one can possibly connect to one another independently from their respective real-world position. We showed that this kind of topology does not represent the city's preexisting networks, such as streets or electrical piping. Rather, with the help of ubiquitous computing (such as smartphones), we form new types of nodes, and with autonomous cars, even supernodes, shaping up an extremely dense topology. Ultimately, we suggested that this will lead to new kind of city, which merges topology and metropolis into a Topolis (our newly coined term). We assumed that, similar to Apple's iPhone and the App Store that came with it, Topolis will bring forth a new kind of socio-technical, city scale operating system that will allow for novel urban flow services, all of which basically allow for linking nodes to one another, through people's activities.

Flowing Scenarios for Topolis

At this stage, we got more concrete and showed several Flowing Scenarios, as well as a generalized figure of the new types of interaction spaces out in Topolis, and as potential in-car interaction techniques. Our scenario examples encompassed

  • a location-based rear seat games for kids that uses holographic 3D, gesture interaction and that uses and conveys knowledge about the passing environment;
  • a rear seat office situation;
  • a flirting app using the side window for a display that is tied to the user's chosen in-car privacy settings;
  • a time travel app that allows the user to use the side window as a kind of time curtain (between today and the past);
  • a social networking & friend finder functionality that seeks the user's nearest buddy and lets the car drive there;
  • an application on the App Store that allows users to change the color of their car (and/or show their mood to the outside world);
  • an example of how the outside of the car could display availability of an extra seat, when used in car sharing situation, as well as information about battery runtime and internal "mood";
  • h) and an idea for car swarms where each driver can choose a type of driving behavior, e.g. having chosen sporty will cost the user a premium amount of credits and will seek loopholes in the autonomously controlled overall traffic. We will present these scenarios in rapid succession, and we are working on two more for the final version.

Flowing Experiences for Digital Natives

We then pointed out that in the future, the purposes of driving may change, but very likely will be influenced by the pre-expectation of the current generation of digital natives, towards wanting to create a flowing experience provided by services and functionalities, rather than by driving the car itself - this will be what urban flow in Topolis will be like.

Asking the Audience

We ended our presentation by asking the audience: Which Urban Flow Services Will Enthuse You?


Particularly our rear seat gameplay scenario earned us quite a bit of press coverage. The topic appeared in prestigious online and print publications, for example in:

One of the conceptual ideas we presented at the Audi Urban Future Summit 2011.
One of the conceptual ideas we presented at the Audi Urban Future Summit 2011.
Early Concept Stages
Early Concept Stages
Early Concept Stages