What's this about?

Tales in the Park is part of a research project being conducted at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London. It uses geo-located 'chatbots' to provide a way for people to safely explore security, safety and trust around Internet of Things devices.

Chatbots have a long history in computing, the first being ELIZA, developed by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966 at MIT; however, it’s only recent advances in computing power that have made them reliable enough for general purpose use, especially when combined with speech processing.

At present, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft are all competing to develop speech and text-based interfaces for use both in the home and on the web. However, there are fundamental differences between a natural language interface and using a keyboard or touchscreen. With speech interfaces, the boundary between ‘using’ and ‘not using’ the device is blurred: for a device like Amazon Echo to function, for example, it needs to listen out for its activation keyword all the time - in other words, it's always listening.

Similarly, when engaging with chatbots on social media, it's not always clear whether you are interacting with a computer or a human, and there's lots of potential for people to inadverently explose sensitive information to people who might not have their best interests at heart.

Tales of the Park is a playful, safe way to explore some of these issues. As you interact with the Creatures using your smartphone, they ask you for information about the park, and in return they'll share what they know or what other people have said to them. They also remember you, and they talk about you with each other behind your back! We're interested in what people will say to the creatures, whether they trust them, and what sort of things they will share with them.



Tales of the Park is part of PETRAS, a multi-university research project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to explore Privacy, Ethics, Trust, Reliability, Acceptability, and Security around the "Internet of Things". It is hosted by London Legacy Development Corporation and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.


The Creature models were named and painted by members of Academy Achievers, a social enterprise based in Newham that helps young people to fulfill their potential. They are: Darnell, Hawa, Ijlaal, Dontae, Khadijah, Elyas, Michael, Folios, Amina, Mahfuza, Sierra, Loreal, Muhammad, Marcus, and Michaela.

Gnome sprite: Public Domain (Buch)
Bat sprite: CC-BY 3.0 @Calciumtrice
Bee sprite: CC-BY-SA 3.0 Charles Sanchez
Map tiles: CC-BY-SA 3.0 Lanea Limmerman

The map tiles and bee sprites were produced for the Liberated Pixel Cup.