Oulu has been a high-tech hub for many years. After all, it’s the home town of Nokia – an international frontrunner in mobile communications, now leading the way in the development of 6G, or sixth-generation wireless technology,
“For many years, Oulu’s image has been a little bit hard,” says Henri Turunen, Executive Producer for Oulu2026.
“Being Europe’s culture capital in 2026 gives us an opportunity to soften up our image with the help of art and culture. But we shouldn’t forget that technology remains a cornerstone of the city. ”
How will technology help transform Oulu into a more vibrant and creative city in 2026?
“For Oulu 2026, technological innovation is not the main point. We focus on content. In our projects we first design the artistic content, then find the right technology to deliver it to the audience,” Henri explains.
He points out that a state-of-the-art fairy tale wall in Oulu’s main library is a good example of how Oulu2026 aims to combine art and technology.
The fairy tale wall is a large interactive touch screen that creates a magical immersive space for children. In addition to watching and getting involved with a fairy tale, the screen has an option to create a snowstorm, make waves in a river, build a pile of colourful autumn leaves and even chase northern lights – all that simply by drawing with fingers. There’s also a panel where users can play musical instruments. What makes the screen even more unique is that you don’t even have to touch it: the surface is so sensitive that it reacts to hand waves.
“The wall uses cutting-edge digital technologies from the gaming and mobile communications industries to achieve a very high level of touch sensitivity.
But children just want to enjoy the beautiful pictures and sounds of the fairy tale and creating magic themselves. They couldn’t care less about the technology inside,” argues Henri.
To make the touch screen accessible to as many children as possible in Oulu, it has been set up with five languages: Finnish, Oulu dialect in Finnish, Swedish, English and Ukrainian.
“We wanted to make sure from the very start that it would be easy and cost-efficient to include different languages in the product,” says Olli Rantala, Manager of the city of Oulu’s TechArt project that created the fairy tale wall.
“We wanted to make this cultural experience available to Ukrainian children who have fled the war. We have many refugees here in Oulu and we want them to enjoy this interactive experience in their native tongue.”
Oleg, a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy living in Oulu, says that goal has been achieved.
“Ukrainian children arriving in Oulu don’t speak Finnish. When they see this fairy tale in Ukrainian, they’ll feel welcome and that’s very important.”
“There will be a lot of TechArt projects in Oulu2026, says Henry Turunen. We’ll be building on the success of existing events such as the Lumo light festival.”
Lumo is a mainly outdoor event featuring light installations. It’s held in November which is the darkest time of the year in Oulu.
“One thing we’re looking at is how to enable visitors to control the installations themselves and change the pieces of art or even create new art at Lumo in 2026,” says Henri.
Oulu2026 will launch an open call on 3 October 2022 for partners to help create its cultural programme. Applications for TechArt projects will be welcome from both Finnish and international parties.
You can find more information about the open call at https://www.oulu2026.eu/en/opencall/
The fairy tale wall will be at the Oulu main library (Kaarlenväylä 3, 90100 Oulu) until 14 August 2022
Video and text by Erika Benke