London 2.0: A High-Tech Tour of the UK Capital
The city of London may be more the 2,000 years old, but there’s way more to it than medieval towers, cathedrals, bridges and an impressively large clock. Beyond the centuries of culture and layers of classic charm (red telephone booths, we’re looking at you), is a city burgeoning with innovation. Modern London is a place where new ideas are born and take flight, and we’re not just talking about within the startup offices of Silicon Roundabout.
There are plenty of things that visitors to Britain’s capital can see beyond Trafalgar Square and Westminster Abbey, so why not do London in a new light? Mashable rounded up tech-minded ways to explore the city of London. From pubs that take Bitcoin to talking statues, we’ve got you (and your appetite for innovation) covered.
Get your 3-D print on
Central London’s iMakr Store is a consumer-facing 3D printing mecca. In fact, it’s the world’s largest 3D printing store — a full two floors worth of top-notch scanners, printers, smartly designed pre-printed objects and accessories. Browse their wares and even opt for training — iMakr offers free informational sessions.
If having a Mini Me has been a dream of yours since the Austin Powers era, you’re in luck. You can pick up a Mini-You — a full-color, 3D-printed replica of yourself — at the iMakr Store, thanks to their on-site body scanner.
Keep your ears open for innovative promotions. For several weeks this past spring, iMakr teamed up with luxury department store Harvey Nichols to offer a sweet in-store opportunity: A scanning booth to create chocolate molds of patrons’ heads and torsos.
Visit Burberry’s tech-enriched flagship
Burberry’s Regent Street flagship is an intriguing meld of timeless London style and cutting edge modern, perhaps futuristic, enhancement. The space, a 1820s construction, was redesigned in 2012 based on Burberry’s strong digital strategy, and it teems with tech. Said former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, “Walking through the doors is just like walking into our website. It is Burberry World Live.” (That explains why Apple poached her to head up its retail division.)
The store boasts hundreds of speakers and screens that synchronize to convey choreographed occurrences, including simulated indoor thunderstorms. Showers certainly bring Burberry’s iconic trench coats to mind, and, speaking of the products themselves, the shop is equipped with mirrors that project images of the garment you’re trying on in different contexts — on the runway, on film, etc. The space is outfitted for events which are live-streamed, a fitting juxtaposition for a physical space grounded in both tech and reality.
Stop in a digitally enhanced sports haven
Experience shopping in all-encompassing way at soccer (football, if you’re UK-based) retailer Pro-Direct’s flagship, LDN19. Pro-Direct’s CDO Jonny Lennon explains, “The purpose of the LDN19 experience is to digitally immerse our customers in football product, content and culture. LDN19 merges the virtual an physical worlds of our consumers and uses sensing and adapting technologies to augment their entire shopping experience.”
There’s screens galore, from touchscreens that allow patrons to explore the products to screens displaying live social channel feeds. Podium-mounted screens are connected to digital mannequins to project different looks based on what shoppers are browsing. With an offering of more than 2,100 football boots, you’re sure to find something that strikes your fancy, whether you’re an Arsenal or Manchester United fan.
See the sights
Scope out the (tech-enriched) famous statues of the city
If London’s statues could talk, what would they say? Thanks to Talking Statues, a project spearheaded by and non-profit arts production company Sing London, we might have some idea. Many of London’s famous statues have been outfitted with smart phone-activated monologues. Using Near Field Communication technology and QR codes on the statues’ bases, pedestrians can swipe or scan to receive a “call” from London’s stone-sheathed greats.
The speeches are penned by some of Britain’s most eminent writers and narrated by actors and comedians. You can listen to Tony Harrison. Meanwhile, lends a story to Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, while actor Ed Stoppard provides the detective’s voice. Although not as permanent to the city as the statues themselves, the installment is slated to run until August 15, 2015.of the Unknown Soldier of Paddington Station, written by European Prize for Literature-winning poet and playwright
View the street art
When it comes to getting the true vibe of a city, there’s nothing like exploring it on foot. Bring your exploration to the next level by mapping out the city’s street art with the help of London-based startup Geo Street Art. The app is a database of sorts, containing hundreds of street art installments and their precise locations. In fact, the map mode function allows you to track your position relative to nearby art. While you’re taking in the scenery, you can learn about the artists, as Geo Street Art’s entries are complete with artist bios. Only interested in seeing Banksy‘s work? No problem. You can filter by artist within the app.
Hit the museums
No trip to Britain’s capital would be complete without a stop in at least one of its famed museums. For exhibits on the cutting-edge, try the Science Museum. Among its current offerings is an installment devoted to 3D printing, which explores the impact it will have on various industries and the future as a whole. The exhibit explores the technology through different lenses, including art — don’t miss Inversive Embodiment, a 3D printing-inspired sculptural work.
Refuel and relax
Grab a bite at Inamo
Virtual menus? Tabletop projections? All part of the dining experience at Asian fusion eatery Inamo. This Soho restaurant features sushi, curries, noodle dishes and much more. Torn between the tuna maki and the seafood gyoza? Get a preview of what they look like before you make your decision. Use the interactive menu technology to project images of the dishes onto your plate, a visual tie-breaker if there ever was one.
You can imbibe as well; pick your poison from an extensive liquid menu. If you’ve had one too many, you can even order a taxi home via this virtual system.
Trade Bitcoin for beer
The pub: a London classic. A London pub that accepts Bitcoin? Even better. Hackney’s The Pembury Tavern was built in the mid-19th century, but when former Cambridge University computer scientist Stephen Early decided to become a pub owner, it received some technological upgrades. In fact, he added the Bitcoin option to The Pembury Tavern’s payment system himself.
If digital currency isn’t enough of a draw, come for the sixteen taps featuring a rotating array of local brews. Have a pint, play some pool (rather, billiards) and grab a bite to eat. Menu offerings include pizza and pub classics, like fish and chips. Bonus: Free Wi-Fi — save your Bitcoins for another beer.
Sit back and play DJ
Ever positively need to hear a certain song when you’re out on the town? Social jukebox app Secret DJ gives you the option to do so if you’re in the UK — and treat an entire pub’s worth of people to the tune in question. Use your smartphone to curate your favorites, and if you’re in a pub-hopping kind of mood, let the music be your guide. This app will let you know what’s playing around you.
If you’re in the mood to stay a while, you’re also in luck. As on Foursquare, if you become a regular at a certain location, you’re afforded special perks, including the ability to push your selections forward in the playlist. Everyone will thank you when the epic chorus to “London Calling” rolls around (even if they don’t admit it).
Bask in the sun
Running out of sunlight during your jam-packed London adventures? Not to worry! With Pints in the Sun, make the most of daylight while enjoying a draught. Digital agency Poke plotted out London using Open StreetMap building outline data and pub locations via Foursquare among other tools to determine what watering holes, at what time, are in the sun.
Stay at a smart hotel
Rest up after your innovation-geared explorations in a way that’s fitting: at a hotel that prioritizes gadgetry. The Eccleston Square Hotel is not only centrally located (it’s proximate to the Victoria tube station), but it utilizes tech to make your stay itself of utmost comfort.
The tech trappings aren’t superfluous; they serve a purpose of efficiency. Rooms are complete with iPads installed with Intelity software that transforms the devices into one-stop hospitality control centers. Guests can order up room service, request housekeeping and even can open and close their drapes with the iPad. Other accoutrements include in-room 3D movies, bathroom mirrors with embedded flat screens, beds with massage settings and “smart glass” bathroom walls with adjustable opacity.
What other tech tourism could one do in London? Tell us in the comments!