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Interactive Billboards Let You Experience the Sounds of Faraway Cities

A new series of travel ads has pedestrians using their headphones to engage with the world, rather than block it out.

image via youtube screen capture

When we travel to a new city for the first time, we often tell our friends back home that we’re “off to see the sights.” But, in truth, “the sights” represent just a slim wedge on the spectrum of senses with which we fully take in a new locale. Travel is more than just a visual experience. To really explore someplace new, we must also inhale new scents, taste new foods, and hear the ambient noises of a wholly different environment than what we’re used to.


It’s that last sense, hearing, which European train operator Thalys hopes they can use to entice travelers into riding the rails to cities serviced by the company. To do so, they’ve created a series of interactive billboards which allow anyone to experience thousands of everyday noises from Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels. The signs, dubbed “Sounds of the City,” are covered in dozens of audio outlets, into which passers by can plug their personal headphones and hear anything from bicycle wheels spinning, to couples making love, all recorded on-site in the city being advertised.

Explains Thalys: “Headphones are often used to block out a city. With Thalys Sounds of the City, they were an opportunity to rediscover one.”

The “Sounds of the City” series is just the latest in the trend toward street ads that move beyond simply broadcasting a message, and instead offer a more complete experience. But while other interactive billboards have hocked discrete products, or specific shopping opportunities, Thalys’ ads are something different—an ambient auditory glimpse at the larger world. And for some, perhaps, it’s a first step toward experiencing someplace new, where they can use all their senses, instead of just one.

[via psfk]

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