40+ Smart Designs That Will Put Any City On The Map

By Aileen Dometita

This article was originally published on travelerdoor

Let’s face it – life in the city can be quite stressful. You have deadlines to meet, papers to submit for your busy job, and limited options for public transport. Not to mention, all the public seats seem to disappear instantly when you just need to sit down and relax after work. With a great deal of forethought, many mayors have taken it upon themselves to make their cities “smarter”. They did this by installing artwork, outdoor furniture, and even gym equipment for the communal benefit of their citizens. There was no mistaking the delight on people’s faces or the envy of those who simply happened to visit these cities and enjoy these extra additions. Below, we have compiled 45 photos of different things that would help any city become “smarter.” Wouldn’t you want any of these installed in your city too?

Break a sweat outdoors

If you ever feel like hitting the gym, you can lace your shoes and sprint to the community park. There, you will see hand bikes, benches, chest press machines, plyometric boxes, and pull-up bars – all of which are available to you for free! The only catch is that you have to work out outdoors!

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As you break out in a sweat, you will be attracting and inviting other people in the community to join you. The calories that you burn help to generate energy for the surrounding area. Now, we are not sure what will motivate you to go to the gym now.

Need a little help?

Bicycling is a great way to burn a lot of calories. Plus, it can help you cut costs and improve the environment. The only downside is that it takes you double the time to get to your destination if you’re not in a car. Fortunately, Stuttgart allows bicyclists to take their bikes on the train.

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That is a much-needed break if you’re on a half-hour-long commute. It might push the older folks to hop on a bike as a form of exercise. In case you’re wondering, the city tram and the portable biking pad are linked, so the bicycles are basically propelled to each station.

Dry in a jiffy

This rolling bench looks pretty unimpressive until you figure out what the bar on the right side is for. Turn the handle, and the seat’s cover will rotate. Now, what good does that do, you may wonder? This bench is perfect for after a heavy rain.

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You won’t have to wait for the sun to dry the bench. All you have to do is turn the lever, and the bench will flip itself, revealing the clean and dry side. If you feel like showing an act of kindness, you could turn the handle for someone else to use.

The tram bicycle lift

Norway is a haven for bicyclists. One of its cities, Trondheim, came up with this ingenious, Cyclocable, which puts an end to an exhausting hill climb. Cyclists can rest their foot on this angled platform, maintain half of their body weight on their bike, and then wait for the platform to propel them up the hill.

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Sounds neat, huh? About five cyclists can access the transport line at a time, and this also includes people who are on scooters. What about the downhill slope? With much rest, bicyclists won’t have to worry about pedaling downwards. Gravity can do the work for you!

A breath of fresh air

Feel like a nice breeze outside? Lace your shoes and head out the door. In a few moments, you should have already arrived to the bench of dreams. You can meditate or take deep breaths. Savor the earthy smell of life around you.

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It looks simple enough, so why hadn’t anyone thought of this architectural beauty before? Plants will shade you from the sun, depending on what time of day you decide to sit there. Or, during the rainy season, you and those plants could welcome rainwater overhead.

Summer sunbathing

With this fold-out balcony, you can easily bring a chair, prop your feet by the railings, and enjoy the Summer heat. In case you feel like you have achieved your desired level of tan, tug both window panes, and the Cabrio system will transform into an attic window.

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The Cabrio system can afford you an awesome view of the night sky, and help you save on electric costs while allowing sunlight to pass through it during the day. With just a few moves, the window transforms into a balcony in front of your eyes.

All hands on deck

South Korea is usually bustling with activity. Despite the traffic, Koreans ensure that the streets are clean, and that garbage is thrown in its proper place. You won’t find a single candy wrapper on the pathway, nor will you find pieces of dirt on your shoes.

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And how does South Korea manage to do that? By using these purposeful sprinklers to hose down the road. The passage of tires rubs against the gravel path. That is enough friction to remove caked mud, grime, and even glue.

Another hero to the rescue

We have seen a lot of people wearing white jackets in hospitals, clinics, and laboratories. They have faithfully done their part to assess clients, monitor symptoms, and treat patients for their illnesses. Just when we thought we had enough of them, here is another superhero to the rescue.

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This autonomous, delivery robot is guaranteed to help staff give efficient care. It takes some of the small tasks that nurses have to do off their hands. It stores medicine, navigates hospital aisles during medicine delivery, and stores and sends documentation to the control center. Neat, huh!

Dining spaces for everyone

You might think that this dining space belongs to some local café. But, it’s actually a project built by the municipality. That means, you can have a round of beer with friends, a cup of tea with co-workers, or enjoy a leisurely sit alone whenever you feel like it.

Image courtesy of geotimes.tistory.com

Every couple of years, the local government ensures that the wooden panels are replaced, and that the seats are re-painted. To them, the well-being and comfort of its residents are of priority. Sometimes, they even change the plants that line the mini-garden. You can only imagine how hospitable the neighborhood is!

Eyes on the road

To encourage people to go out more, the mayor installed starlight on the public parks’ pavements. It’s as breathtaking as it sounds. Don’t worry if you drop your keys or happen to trip over your shoelaces. Matter of fact, it might be difficult for you to keep your eyes off the road.

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Have a stroll with a loved one, or your partner. Spending a few minutes with them in a beautiful landscape is guaranteed to lift the spirits. Now, there’s no reason for either one of you to get lost. But, if you are enjoying the magical view, it might take you longer to get to where you need to go.

Responsive street furniture

With many cities upping their game, London felt they should too. They hosted an exhibition at one of its museums to showcase street furniture prototypes that adapts to its residents’ needs. One of these prototypes uses technology to detect how each person’s use of the public areas could be more personalized.

Image courtesy of cbc.ca

Take this visually impaired Londoner – she is walking with her dog, and as she passes under the street lamps, her phone registers her needs. The street lamp automatically adjusts its level of lighting, foldaway seating, and it even extends the time for which the woman can cross the road.

For the young at heart

It doesn’t matter how old you are – pass by a swing, and you will feel the jittery excitement of your feet. “Higher,” you say, imagining someone pushing you from the back, and feeling the rush of air flow past your shoulders. If you’re flying solo, simply kick your feet off the ground as you swing backwards.

Image Courtesy of thecityfix.com

This is a great way to end the day, and it’s certain to bring a smile to anyone’s face. There is only one swing per bus-stop, however. So just as the kid in us is begging to take a ride on the swing, it will also want to compete with the other young-at-hearts.

Grow a bud

If there is one thing every Hollander knows, it’s that you should plant buds two spaces apart. That way, these bulbs can blossom into beautiful flowers, on which Hollanders can sit on. Pull down each seat, and take a minute to enjoy the fresh air.

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Fortunately, people who are waiting for the bus can line up, sit on these chairs, and rest their feet. Within a couple of minutes, the bus will come honking by, and then wait for passengers to board. This should help ease the stress of commute and city life.

No more knocking

What’s one thing we need in public restrooms? More privacy! That’s right. With these hanging lights, you won’t have to worry about being disturbed by another person. A red light will tell others that the cubicle is occupied,, and you can enjoy its confines for as long as you wish.

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You won’t have to be bothered by knocking, especially when you are focused on your A-game. Enjoy the sweet release, cleanse, and then flush when you’re all done. The minute you unhinge and walk out of the stall, the overhead light will turn green.

Quick charge

College students absolutely love these tables. With so much homework, they often bring their coffee cups and laptops to these tables and start tapping away. Some, who have to conduct research on their phones, plug a cable from their phone into the energy converter.

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These solar-powered tables provide a quick charge for students who have to use gadgets in class, or basically anyone whose phone is on low-battery. Patiently wait, and enjoy the soccer match until your phone fully recharges. You can also put your phone away and have a chat with your friend.

Up for a game of pong?

A minute doesn’t seem to be too long, except when you’re doing planks or waiting for the light to turn green. It’s one of the longest moments of anyone’s lives. So how did Germany deal with the impatience of its modern residents? It installed this street pong to engage them for a couple rounds of …well, Pong.

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If you happen to catch the red light, tap on the ,it and it will offer you a list of arcade games to choose from. If you choose to play pong, you could be matched against the player on the other side of the street. The person who scores the most goals in the other person’s net wins.

Do you hear that?

It’s payday, and just like any regular consumer, you head on down to the mall. You come across a friend who happens to be heading to one of your favorite stores. You stop to chat for a bit. A couple of minutes into the conversation, you hear something swoosh down, and you feel a gush of wind from nowhere.

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Little did you know that this mall in Prague affords mall-goers the alternative to slide down the chute instead of taking the stairs or the escalator. You’re guaranteed to have a blast. But we wouldn’t recommend that you bring your trolley with you.

Burn those calories

If you are like us, then you would know how hard it is to lose weight. It is difficult to motivate yourself and spring into action. Luckily, folks in this town painted these measurements on the subway steps. You can count every calorie burnt as you walk up and down the stairs. Isn’t that cool?

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You could always just buy a pedometer, and then look at the number of calories burnt. But in case you forget to wear one around your wrist, huff and puff to and from these stairs to burn those excess calories. It sounds like a good morning run everyday to the office.

Who’s got talent?

Forget the reality show. In this city, you won’t have to wait in line to get an audience to listen to you. Play as you wish, to your heart’s content on these benches. These are guaranteed to amplify the sound of your band or instruments. No bulky speakers. No auto-tune. Just natural talent!

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The disc amplifies the music to anyone standing before it. So, we highly discourage that you gossip before these whispering dishes. If you want to see just how amplified your voice can go, then visit the Living Innovation Zone, near the Market Street in San Francisco. Bring your guitar set with you!

State-of-the-art parking system

If there is one thing we wished hotels would invest more in, it’s their parking management system. After all, they can afford it with the rates we are paying by day. Fortunately, Scorpio Automation has come up with this driver-friendly design to help car owners find a parking space.

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A pair of indicators can be seen at the car’s end. A green light means there’s parking available, while a red light means, better luck elsewhere, buddy. This feature would make parking a breeze during the graveyard shift. We wouldn’t have to rely on dim parking lights.

Soofa benches

Ever wanted to enjoy something luxurious while outdoors? Now you can with the Soofa bench installed in Harvard Square, Danehy Park, Fresh Pond, and Central Square. These smart city benches allow you to charge your gadgets via USB cables from energy gathered from the sun.

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In return, Soofa benches collect information depending on its location, like how clean the air is around this public space. And, how loud it can be at certain points in the day. These Soofa benches help collect data that could be useful for minimizing noise and air pollution in major cities such as Los Angeles and Miami.

Access granted

Admit it. There might have been times when you were too lazy to recycle trash. Instead of separating general waste from the recyclables, you would shoot them down one bin. Well, this trash can won’t have any of that. Try to do that, and it will block its own chute.

Image courtesy of ecubelabs.com

Because of AI technology, it can identify the component of our plastic bottles, food wrappers, and compost. It is also capable of identifying whether it’s insides are full. In case there’s not enough space, it will compress the trash to accommodate more. Around 7 pm, the garbage man will empty it.

Joy ride!

Now, this is one reason to love public commuting. Hamburg City installed mini-libraries in each bus. That means, you can read a portion or a chapter of a book until you arrive at your destination. Oh, the number of books we can read, and all for free!

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There’s a catch – book worms might ditch the commute and travel the whole length of the route just to enjoy the company of these books. After all, what’s a couple of dollars in exchange for a visit from your favorite fictional character, or a couple of wise words from a well-renowned author?

A bouquet of flowers

With the intense heat, Israelis have come up with this clever architectural design to give its citizens some shade. These flower lamps are 30 feet tall and 30 feet wide, and they have been designed to bloom (more like blow cool air) as you walk beneath them.

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Air is channeled to the chutes from the base of the flower. It is compressed and filtered until someone walks underneath the buds. The bud blossoms and channels cool air towards the people walking under it. At night time, they also light up.

Want to hang around?

If you are like us, then you love to spend time with friends outside. You might skateboard around the city, lounge by a café, or spend time in the park. If you’re short on money, you and your friends can always hang around these safety nets. Enjoy the sun and the good company.

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No one is too young or old to try these safety nets out. But out of courtesy, we suggest that you take off your shoes. Grime stuck in the soles of our shoes can get stuck in these nets. Share a box of pizza with friends or finish the last few chapters of the book you are reading.

Courtesy call

Ever parked your car in a lot, and then came back to find that there are scratches on your door? Thanks to this soft barrier, the French need not to worry about dents or scratches from neighboring cars. That’s also a relief for parking management.

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Now, you won’t have to worry about a kid opening the car door too wide, causing a dent on another car. What’s more is that the soft barrier can also act a as a parking guide for newbie drivers. There is simply no reason for them to park past the line.

Got our papers ready

When looking for a job, there are many things to consider – salary, company benefits, and the office. Given this company’s design, we aren’t surprised why it receives over a hundred applicants each day. News has it that Wayfair Canada aims to hire about a thousand engineering technologists by next year!

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It may not look like they need it, but they’re on the hunt for more software engineers, product managers, data scientists, researchers, and experienced designers. With a solid pool of professionals such as that, we won’t be surprised if they offer topnotch services and state-of-the-art furniture designs.

Minimizing carbon footprint

With many visitors, Paris has to come up with ways to reduce its carbon footprint. That is why its cities are lined with these solar trees that provide shade and feed off solar energy while you lounge beneath them. Hook your cables to the USB ports, or fill your water bottles from the fountain.

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As you have probably guessed, the water-cooling system is fueled by solar energy. So you wouldn’t have to buy bottled water. Unlike other trees, this one automatically lights the pathways at night. It sounds like we could use more of these in our local parks.

Feeling like doing yoga?

Knowing there’s are a lot of people who cross this plaza at any given moment, the local government thought to install public seats when the lights are red. A couple of seconds off your feet is a relief. But instead of installing public benches or chairs, the locals chose these hammocks for people to swing on.

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If you’ve ever wondered what aerial yoga feels like, sit in one of these. You can choose to kick off your slippers and raise your legs like this woman did, or you can simply straddle the cloth. If you are feeling a little adventurous, you can treat the hammock like a swing.

Welcome to Enfield Town

Welcome to Enfield town. Here, residents actively contribute to create a more comfortable city for everyone. That means everyone can submit designs for the public plaza, or in this case, Fountain Island. With funfair rides and market stalls, what’s the best way to reinvigorate this area?

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A couple of residents took to the square and stretched their legs out to enjoy the noise of the city. Before, many took to the internet to submit their ideas to improve Fountain Island. But we can’t see it getting any better from the looks of it.

Parked in a jiffy

Picture this: You study for an all-nighter, take a couple minutes to nap, and then wake up past the alarm time. You hurriedly dress up and run. But upon arriving on campus, you zigzag across the lot to miss the (now-empty) parking space that you had just passed by.

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Well, that’s unlikely to happen in this parking lot. Before entering the parking lot, you will see to the far right and left if there are any spaces available. Wait for drivers to drive in reverse, and then park your car diagonally within the space allotted.

Steora smart benches

Steora prides itself for its benches that cost and look the same as regular ones, with an added touch. What are its additional features? For one, you can charge your gadgets by plugging the cable in USB ports. You can also use these benches as a repair station with a complete set of tools.

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When you’re not sitting, those glass panels feature the companies’ display advertisements. Tap or sit on these sensor panels, and they will automatically turn blank. Depending on the time of day, Seora benches also offer ambient light while you wait for your bus.

Bike Rentals

If you’re new to Melbourne, and you want to take a tour of the city, you can walk or bike. With many of these bike rental systems, you can get a much-needed dose of Vitamin D, some exercise, and the satisfaction of seeing the city from the Eureka Skydeck. Now, how does that sound?

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Simply borrow a bike from the dock, and then return it to a dock in another location. Find the nearest tourist spot, which would be a stone’s throw away, and then enjoy the rest of your day. To find open docks and available bikes within the city, download the app on your phone. Sounds like a breeze, right?

Interactive art

What is so special about San Francisco? Could it be because of the famous Golden Gate Bridge, the Alamo Square, or these spectacular open spaces featuring interactive art? It helps that the weather is near perfect and that the people are easy to get along with.

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When these MeetWalls were installed, people couldn’t help but be intrigued by the stranger across them. Simply stand before the wall, wait for the sensors to detect your presence, and then introduce yourself to the person before you as the wall reveals them.

IBM’s smart ideas for smarter cities

Some companies have taken the initiative to create dual-purpose billboards for its residents. Take a look at IBM’s Smart Ideas for Smarter Cities. With a little ingenuity, IBM created this simple advertisement into a convenient shade. The local government should start jotting down notes.

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With this campaign, IBM intends to inspire people to share ideas that would help make life better in the city. If yours gets selected, it promises to install these billboards in your city too! With a little competition, everyone can thrive.

Watch this disappearing act

Remember as kids, we loved to perform magic tricks? Well, people of all ages can do the same in this public space. All they have to do is open the metal cabinet by the corner of the brick wall, pull the lever down and say “abracadabra.” In a couple of minutes, this beauty appears out of nowhere.

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You can dine outside, hang out with friends, or simply enjoy the gentle breeze billowing past your face. If you are feeling hungry, you can always visit the diner nearby. You can also bring some food, and eat it peacefully here. Whatever you choose, you’re guaranteed to have a leisurely afternoon off.

Zebra crossing

To ensure that people and drivers pay more attention to pedestrian crossings, the city government of Nanjing, China installed this smart zebra crossing. The crosswalk illuminates as residents walk on it. The lights flash to warn drivers to ease off the gas in advance.

Image Courtesy of Open Gov Asia

Now, if you’re the type to text and walk, then all you have to do is look down the whole time. Casually glance between your phone’s screen and the lights. One other thing we love about this system is that it automatically adjusts the lights’ brightness depending on the surrounding environment.

More charging outlets

What is the best way to advertise your company? Offer people free and valuable services. Place them conveniently around schools and pedestrian crossings, and watch your competitors sweat. That is exactly what AT&T did. They installed solar-powered mobile charging stations around New York City.

Image courtesy of ATT Street Charge/Twitter

You’re able to amp your phone’s juice and enjoy free wi-fi. We are almost certain you will take a picture of the charging station, grateful for the free service it gave you. So, while you are at it, post it on Instagram and head on your way. These are available all year-long in beaches, parks, and public plazas.

Music in the streets

There’s nothing like music to soothe the mind. So JCDecaux came up with one of the coolest bus shelters we had ever seen. You can access your music playlist and play through the shelter’s speakers via your choice of apps. Connect with people who have the same taste in music as you, or enjoy the novelty of other people’s music.

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In less than a month, there were over a million people who had come in contact with each other under this bus shelter. Over 110 hours of music was played. And more artists had been discovered by people’s shared excitement. Now, commuting doesn’t seem too bad after all.

Get the rave going

This city turns a different hue once the sun sets. You can smell a faint whiff of alcohol coming from bars, and you can hear the beat of the music coming from all the nightclubs. After a fun night with friends, you can return home at snail’s pace knowing that these street lights will guide you towards safety.

Image Courtesy of Public Art Network UK/Blogspot

And what’s another thing we love about these street lamps? It’s that they’re solar-powered. During the day, they feed off light rays and stored energy to illuminate pathways for residents. We might have mistaken them for the sun itself with how bright these lamps shine.

Ecoful town

There is a good reason why Toyota is a well-trusted company. Until now, it’s a pioneer in the shift towards using electrical energy. Toyota, had in fact, created its own Ecoful Town in Toyota City. There, you will find electric vehicles and power-assisted bicycles for you to use.

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These options afford users a few kilometers until the nearest public transportation point. You can also recharge your e-bike or scooter. Simply plug the cable in the household power outlets which capture energy from the sun. There are over 20 stations, and a hundred electric vehicles and bicycles ready for use!

Easy recall

You might have had a lot of things on your mind, that you forgot which floor you parked your car on. It’s a problem a lot of people encounter, and fortunately, management had an ingenious way of solving that. They painted each level’s number on the elevator doors!

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We don’t know how else you can forget the floor you parked your car on. Management even painted, “remember.” They don’t want you asking security to track your movements because of this. A few seconds of waiting should help re-orient you to your surroundings. After all, a little mindfulness goes a long way.

Cute photo-op

One of the best ways to pass the time is to head on down to the beach. Feel the salty mist against your face and listen to the sound of the waves lapping against the shore. If you didn’t bring your sun tan lotion, don’t fret. Take cover under this big, green hat.

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It should cover two people. But you can always take up as much space as you need. Have someone take a picture of you sitting underneath this cute design staring off longingly into the distance. With or without filters, we are certain that this picture of you is Insta-worthy.

Got any juice?

Because this side of the building faces east, it’s also the side where most commuters pass these seats. Why would anyone sit on these instead of taking one with a shade overhead? Well for one, these Smart Solar Benches have USB ports for you to plug your cable chargers in.

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The designer observed that this is the most convenient spot to harness solar energy. So the glass panels that you see on the bench are actually solar panels. Not only can these benches power up your phone or laptop, but they can amp up the juice on your electric bicycles and scooters.

Need a map?

We know. This bus stop seems pretty intimidating. But in reality, it’s pretty user-friendly. In case, you happen to get off the wrong stop, it will tell you how many minutes you have to wait for the next bus. New to the place? It features an interactive map that should help you get to you are going.

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It will calculate the number of routes you can take, and offer you the quickest one that’s available to you. The glazed roof helps filter the sun’s rays while you patiently wait under its shade. It also acts as a charging point and WIFI station. Now, who wouldn’t want to get lost?