London’s historic statues will start calling smartphones from this week

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If you told a friend that a statue on the street had started talking to you, there’s a chance they might give you a heartfelt squeeze of the shoulder before uttering “Sure it did” and giving you the number of someone that can help you with that kind of thing.

However, include the information that there was some high-tech jiggery-pokery involved and they may refrain from handing over the number and instead ask you to elaborate.

The above scenario is perfectly possible, especially if you find yourself plodding about the streets of London or Manchester this week.

From Tuesday, 35 statues of famous folk – fictional and not so fictional – will connect with your smartphone and regale you with entertaining tales of their fascinating lives (even if some of them are completely made up).

The 12-month project is the work of arts outfit Sing London and technology group Antenna. UK-based Digital R&D Funds for the Arts is backing the initiative, which is aimed at generating more interest in the arts by using technology to bring public spaces to life.

Related: UK art gallery lets you control robots over the Internet for a night-time tour

The short monologues have been penned and voiced by British writers and actors, with statues including Queen Victoria, Sherlock Holmes, William Shakespeare and Isaac Newton all clearing their throats in readiness for your visit. Oh, a cat (Samuel Johnson’s, apparently) and a goat (probably not Samuel Johnson’s) are also among the listed statues [pdf], though quite how they’re going to communicate with passers-by is anyone’s guess.

There are several ways to get a statue to call you up – those with NFC-enabled handsets can simply swipe their device over the tag at the base of the statue, leaving those without to either scan a QR code or enter a Web address.

“You don’t need to download anything,” Sing London‘s artistic director Colette Hiller told the Guardian, adding, “Your phone will just ring and it will say, ‘Sherlock Holmes is on the phone for you’ and the monologue begins.”

Sing London, a group that describes itself as offering “high profile, participatory events to make cities feel happy,” hit the news a few years back with talking trash cans that applauded, said “thanks,” or simply burped when you threw your trash in.

[Source: Leicester University via Guardian]

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