Augmenting Cities
A Playful Path to Community
September 23–24, 2019 · Oakland, CA

Just as mobile communication and computing has altered the evolution of cities over the last 20 years, AR technology stands to fundamentally change how we connect with each other and experience communities for decades to come.

This is why Niantic and the Knight Foundation hosted an invite-only symposium where 150 attendees gathered to reflect on how people, cities, and technology will evolve and be shaped through augmented reality (AR).

Full program available for download here.

Interested in learning more?
Check out our blog post highlighting key takeaways from the conference, or contact us at


Day 1: September 23, 2019

02:00 PM
Registration. Natural Sciences Exhibit open for exploration.
03:00 PM
Opening Remarks & Framing the Discussion
John Hanke
CEO, Niantic
Sam Gill
VP/Communities and Impact, Senior Adviser to the President
Michael Jones
Senior Executive, Niantic & Venture Investor, Seraphim Capital
Master of Ceremonies
03:50 PM
Smart Citizens and Participatory Urbanism
Over the past decade, smart cities have been envisioned as powerful sensor-rich technology platforms that promise seamless data-informed city efficiencies, specifically for mobility, energy, buildings, and infrastructure. But these visions for smart cities often fail to include the lived experiences of their residents - the messy human bits that make cities thrive. With this in mind, how might augmented reality and playfulness be meaningfully incorporated into notions of smart cities and encourage new forms of civic engagement and smart citizenship for the benefit of the whole city?
Jen Stein
Design/Creative Lead at Experimental Design
04:15 PM
The Art of Rethinking Technology
Contemporary experiments in art and technology are bringing unconventional and imaginative new approaches to bear on the role of emerging technologies. Transforming the gallery - as a public space found in every city in the world - into a new type of laboratory for experimentation: from breeding artificial life within the gallery walls, to immersive experiences that connect us to the most challenging societal issues of the day.
Ben Vickers
CTO Serpentine Gallery
04:35 PM
Using Technology to Engage Community in Public Spaces
The walker of the metropolis, who walks and gets lost in the urban mazes, recognizing the city, creating affective bonds, discovering and wandering through unknown places in his walk; This is the essence of the classic French concept: Flâneur. Nowadays, this same concept can be re-signified, with the possibility of AR, a new type of urban experience can be observed, so the concept of Hybrid Flâneur was created. This research looked at how Pokémon GO, as well as similar technologies, can add a new form of urban experience.
Rachel Berrutti
Architect and Urban Planning researcher at UFRGS, Brazil
05:00 PM
Augmented Experiences & Walking Tour
Take a trip around beautiful Lake Merritt to experience a Niantic location-based AR game. In the gardens of the Oakland museum, you can also experience augmented city-scale projects from Hello Lamp Post and Mural Arts AR, interacting with art, music, and everyday objects that come to life.
07:00 PM
Dinner and Reception
Live Music by local artists, Tom Rhodes and Love in the Mix.
09:00 PM
End of Day 1

Day 2: September 24, 2019

08:30 AM
09:30 AM
Transforming Urban Environments
We explore four different ways of transforming urban environments to increase community engagement: through storytelling, interactive play, sound, and location-based games.
Founder and Artistic Director of Punchdrunk, Felix Barrett will share the company’s journey to the forefront of new forms of storytelling. From early experiments to the evolution of the form, find out what direction the newest genre of theatre is travelling in.
Felix Barrett
Founder of PunchDrunk
Interactive Play
Designing for play in public spaces comes with its own challenges and opportunities. Katie Salen explores some of each through the lens of two projects: a big urban game involving giant inflatable game pieces and a karaoke ice cream truck driven by a squirrel. Both were designed to mobilize public awareness and engagement with their cities.
Katie Salen
Professor, Informatics, UC Irvine & Co-founder and Chief Designer, Connected Camps
Composer and sound artist Duncan Speakman, will dive into how narrative sound led experiences can engage audiences in uncontrolled public and private space. Through the intersection between locative urban experiences and contemporary ecology, Speakman explores how different ways to attend to our city environments can enhance care in our local communities.
Duncan Speakman
Composer & Sound Artist, Pervasive Media Studio
Location-Based Games
In location-based games the virtual space of the game intermingles with the physical environment temporarily reconfiguring and repurposing it for playful behavior. In his talk, Konstantinos discusses how locative play can help “reprogram” urban environments by challenging preconceptions and perceptions, fostering a sense of commonality and social connectedness, shaping (and reshaping) space into place, and exposing power structures as it enables individuals to “think” about the city instead of just “doing” it.
Konstantinos Papangelis
Prof. at School of Interactive Games and Media, Rochester Institute of Technology, NY
10:35 AM
Designing Inclusive & Accessible Playable Cities
What comes to mind when we think of play? Small children? Athletes? Minecraft? This presentation unpacks some of the most commonly-held assumptions about play and contextualizes it as a powerful tool for navigating, appropriating and augmenting public space.
Sarah Brin
Strategic Partnerships at Meow Wolf
From 2002’s Mobile Bristol and the UK’s first located media trials, to 2018’s Layered Realties - the UK’s first Public showcase of 5G, Watershed brings together artists, technology providers and citizens to explore the creative potential of new technologies. Asking who is missing from public space and who has the permission to play, CEO and Playable City Founder Clare Reddington will share projects from the UK, Brazil, Tokyo and beyond, exploring the creative re-use of city infrastructure, the re-appropriation city technologies and the tooling up citizens, to put people and play at the heart of the future city.
Clare Reddington
CEO of Watershed
11:10 AM
How “Place” Impacts Emotions
The XYZ Atlas asks why we feel a sense of belonging to a place by mapping experiences and collecting stories that document our highs and lows. Artist Jennifer Chenoweth used a colorful chart of emotions and public art to engage people about place-based experiences that create attachment and wholeness.
Jennifer Chenoweth
Artist at Fisterra Studio Projects
11:30 AM
The Future Augmented City
What technologies will enable the “Future Augmented City”? What unintended consequences may result from it? How do we shape the future we want to see? This future gazing panel will dive into the deeper social discourse of the good, the bad, and the ugly impacts of AR and what we can do to positively shape our future digital cities.
Ina Fried
Chief Technology Correspondent at Axios
Gene Becker
Senior Director AI Research, Samsung
Jeff Watson
Assistant Professor of Interactive Media and Games at USC and Director of Situation Lab
Kevin Slavin
Founding Chief Science and Technology Officer, The Shed
Ross Finman
AR Strategy Lead, Niantic
Ilana Lipsett
Senior Program Manager, Equitable Futures Lab, Institute for the Future
12:30 AM
Outdoor Lunch
01:30 PM
An Urban Playshop
This concluding session revolves around an award-winning imagination game designed for envisioning alternative tomorrows. Customized to the themes of Augmented Cities, we will use playful and aleatory methods, first, to scaffold creativity and collaboration in generating ideas for "things" from manifold possible futures, and then, to refine and present a selection of these ideas to the conference. Together we aim to discover not only actionable, but also aspirational, hilarious, or cautionary concepts for engaging with urban space and technology, and in the process learn some new approaches to the strategic use of collective imagination.
Stuart Candy
Carnegie Mellon Situation Lab
Jen Stein
Experimental Design
Ceda Verbakel
Carnegie Mellon Situation Lab
Jeff Watson
USC Situation Lab
03:30 PM
Closing Remarks, Networking, and Cocktails
05:00 PM
Event Closes