Skip to main content

Google helped create an energy-harvesting walkway that’s on show in Berlin

energy harvesting walkway berlin google and uk clean tech business pavegen unveil the largest ever at festival of lights 1
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Google is taking its reputation for coming up with tech-savvy bright ideas to the next level via a new collaboration with U.K.-based energy and data-harvesting pioneer Pavegen. As part of Berlin’s 2017 Festival of Lights, a 10-day event which takes place in October, the two companies created an interactive energy-harvesting walkway (the largest of its kind) and light show. The 26-square-meter installation involves a smart floor and 176 colored light panels. As visitors walk on the floor, their footsteps trigger a synchronized lighting display. The more energy that’s generated, the more responsive the wall becomes.

“The generator technology is electromagnetic, like a bicycle dynamo, and converts the kinetic energy from your footstep into off-grid electricity,” Archie Wilkinson, project lead and head of Pavegen Live, told Digital Trends. “As you step on the Pavegen floor, the top surface flexes by 5-10mm, creating a rotation in the electromagnetic generators below. Each step produces around 3 joules of energy, which is about 5 watts for the duration of each step. The walkway has already generated over 100,000 joules of energy since launch on Wednesday, October 10.”

In addition, the walkway contains Low Power Bluetooth beacons which can communicate with a special app to record the experience. Individual unique moments are captured by a photo pod at the end of the array, and then shared with users as a GIF.

It’s a fun, attention-grabbing project, but it also serves as a glimpse at how future smart cities may be able to harness sustainable energy from new sources — even something as innocuous as people walking on the sidewalk. That’s exactly what’s happening at Du Pont Circle in Washington D.C., where three Pavegen walkways are currently converting the footsteps of the roughly 10,000 people who walk in the area daily into storable electricity, which is then used to light the space at night.

Pavegen in Washington D.C.

“We’re also producing data on the energy output, helping the city to understand footfall in this busy commuter zone,” Wilkinson continued. “Technology alone won’t make cities smarter, it’s about changing behaviors. We have recently created a digital platform that rewards interactions with Pavegen surfaces via Bluetooth beacons, making your commute transactional. We can literally reward people for their footsteps with gifts, discounts, and opportunities, for example, provided by brands or causes that align to a smarter, more sustainable future.”

Receiving prizes for walking, instead of driving, to work? Yep, we’re on board with that!

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
Digital Trends’ Tech For Change CES 2023 Awards
Digital Trends CES 2023 Tech For Change Award Winners Feature

CES is more than just a neon-drenched show-and-tell session for the world’s biggest tech manufacturers. More and more, it’s also a place where companies showcase innovations that could truly make the world a better place — and at CES 2023, this type of tech was on full display. We saw everything from accessibility-minded PS5 controllers to pedal-powered smart desks. But of all the amazing innovations on display this year, these three impressed us the most:

Samsung's Relumino Mode
Across the globe, roughly 300 million people suffer from moderate to severe vision loss, and generally speaking, most TVs don’t take that into account. So in an effort to make television more accessible and enjoyable for those millions of people suffering from impaired vision, Samsung is adding a new picture mode to many of its new TVs.
[CES 2023] Relumino Mode: Innovation for every need | Samsung
Relumino Mode, as it’s called, works by adding a bunch of different visual filters to the picture simultaneously. Outlines of people and objects on screen are highlighted, the contrast and brightness of the overall picture are cranked up, and extra sharpness is applied to everything. The resulting video would likely look strange to people with normal vision, but for folks with low vision, it should look clearer and closer to "normal" than it otherwise would.
Excitingly, since Relumino Mode is ultimately just a clever software trick, this technology could theoretically be pushed out via a software update and installed on millions of existing Samsung TVs -- not just new and recently purchased ones.

Read more
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more