The bird that never was

Some months ago while at an unfamiliar Tokyo subway station, I was startled to hear the clear sound of a cheerfully twittering bird. Here, 30 meters underground, in the all steel-and-concrete bowels of the Tokyo Metro? It seemed that some birds aren’t very picky with places to nest.

After listening for a while, though, I eventually realised that it just was a recording of a bird call playing at 10 second intervals. At the time, i dismissed it as a futile attempt to humanize the sterile steel and concrete environment of the Tokyo Metro, to cheer up exhausted, overworked salary men during the crush of rush hour. Somehow, I don’t think a bird call is going to do it.

Tonight, however, I finally got the crucial clue to solve the mystery. The loudspeaker making the bird noises is mounted at the base of the platform’s exit staircase. Looking closer showed a small symbol of a man with a white cane.

In other words, blind people can follow the bird call to navigate their way out of the dense maze of the subway. Better yet, it does it in a way that’s unobtrusive and even pleasant for other passengers. Fantastic design.

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4 thoughts on “The bird that never was

  1. Maybe its a kind of Darwinian trap? The sweet tweetings of a little birdies lures those that are listening just that little bit too much (ie, the blind) to their untimely death, and their bodies are then used to fuel gigantic robots that eat horrible things and hurt themselves in hilarious ways for the amusement of the non-blind populace.

    Non-intrusive guides for the blind? Now that’s just naive.

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