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Community / Public space

Video: The speaker that pronounces street names for you

Across the more touristy parts of Copenhagen, street signs are adorned with little black boxes, attached by a cable wrapped in string. If you pick the box up, it begins to speak: reading out the street sign above you in an authentic Danish accent, first syllable-by-syllable, then again in full. As it does so, lights above the sign highlight the relevant part of the word. 

The installation, known as WTPH?, or What the Phonics? is the work of Momo Miyazaki and Andrew Spitz, two non-native Copenhageners (Miyazaki is American, Spitz is French) who struggled with the pronunciation of street names in the Danish capital. To make things easier for themselves and other non-natives, they recorded Danish friend reading out the street names, then built and programmed the small, circular speakers to read out the name while lights flash with karaoke-style emphasis. 

Here’s a video of the speakers in action:

According to the designers, the speakers allow users both to pick up some language skills, and to engage with local culture:

[They give] foreigners a chance to feel that excitement, connection, and pride of knowing one more thing about the surrounding community they wanted to experience.

Most importantly, though, they allow you to avoid that terrible moment where (while on the phone to a taxi driver or friend) you realise you have no way of communicating where you actually are. 

h/t Pop-Up City.


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