A street in London is being used as a petri dish for a futuristic technology that could make shoppers’ experience safer and more enjoyable. Among the installations on Bird Street, a small shopping street just off Oxford Circus, are Pavegen tiles which convert the force of footsteps into electricity to power bird noises and street-lighting as well as Airlabs filters that clean the polluted city air. Airlite paint that uses light-activated molecules to break air pollution down into innocuous salts is also being tested.
What is perhaps most promising about these technologies are their ability to be integrated into everyday city life as streets, decoration, or city benches — because of this they do not intrude on or complicate the running of the city. Experiments like these are vital to discover environmental solutions that can be easily integrated into existing infrastructure.
These kinds of solutions need to be implemented alongside changing our living habits in order to repair some of the damage humans have caused the planet. Innovation and individual responsibility have never been under more time pressure in the light of warnings from Stephen Hawking and others that we will soon cross the environmental threshold and become unable to repair our world.