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5 Fantastical Designs for the Phone Booth of the Future

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New Yorkers have already floated the idea of turning some of the city's 11,000 rundown, rarely used payphones into mini libraries or WiFi hotspots, but now even government officials are taking the idea of a massive phone-booth makeover seriously. Mayor Bloomberg, along with a cohort of entrepreneurs and tech-industry judges, announced the five finalists in the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge, which were picked from over 125 submissions since the contest began in December.

The winners, whose high-tech, 21st-century models are displayed in the gallery of renderings above, had varied priorities, from charging stations and blank canvases for creative installations to green havens of alternative energy to spots that could be sold to advertisers (ah, now there's the moneymaker). Others were more pragmatic, reinventing their metal boxes for use in the event of an emergency or as real-time weathervanes of sorts, recording rainfall and pollution. Still other possible functions of a payphone of the future include an electronic portal for things like information relevant to the public or the neighborhood. One complicated plan even outlined a way to install apps and a messaging functionality, creating a way for citizens to stay completely up-to-date about civic matters, events, and the arts in an interactive fashion. A sixth finalist will be named after a mass vote taken between now and March 15 via the city's Facebook page.

It all looks great... but wait, this is New York we're talking about. In reality, all these bells and whistles might last about five minutes on our mean streets, but we love the pull-out-all-the-stops creativity nonetheless.
· Official site: Reinvent Payphones
?Renderings via the NYC Mayor's Office Flickr page.