Soofa Bench is a solar-powered park bench. It has space for three people, and can recharge two USB phones at once. It is "made of sustainably harvested materials and built in the United States." Photo by Lykara Ryder.

First world problems

Third world problems usually center around a lack of food, clothing, water, or shelter, or possibly all of them. Compounding these lacks, you often have severe pollution and poverty.

First world problems, however, are more nuanced. For example, this sign in a hotel, alerting guests to the fact that the door does not lead to an entrance or an exit to anything interesting, just Employee Stuff:

This door leads to ES: Employee Stuff. It isn't interesting to anyone else, so move along. Note the sign is written in Braille, too. Photo by Lykara Ryder.
This door leads to ES: Employee Stuff. It isn’t interesting to anyone else, so move along. Note the sign is written in Braille, too. Photo by Lykara Ryder.

Fire hydrants aren’t all that exciting in the first world, but this one is at least different. It is orange instead of red, and it has an Out Of Service sign. Of particular interest: this is a professionally crafted sign, not some temporary thing taped to the hydrant, suggesting that hydrants, much like buses during rush hour on busy routes, are routinely Out Of Service:

Bright orange (orange is the new red?) fire hydrant, prominently saying that it is Out Of Service. Who knew hydrants went off duty? Photo by Lykara Ryder.
Bright orange (orange is the new red?) fire hydrant, prominently saying that it is Out Of Service. Who knew hydrants went off duty? Photo by Lykara Ryder.

Finally, there is this park bench, near the Capitol in Washington, DC. This isn’t just any old park bench, but a solar-powered park bench. And why would a park bench need to be solar-powered? Because it is a park bench with two USB charging ports!

Soofa Bench is a solar-powered park bench. It has space for three people, and can recharge two USB phones at once. It is "made of sustainably harvested materials and built in the United States." Photo by Lykara Ryder.
Soofa Bench is a solar-powered park bench. It has space for three people, and can recharge two USB phones at once. It is “made of sustainably harvested materials and built in the United States.” Photo by Lykara Ryder.

It was crafted by Changing Environments, an MIT Media Lab spin-off that took a look at how technology could improve urban living. The Soofa Bench comes in various versions, some of which also include environmental monitoring sensors, powered by the solar panels on the bench. Also available are a Soofa Core, which is essentially the central pillar without the bench, and a Soofa Sign, a solar-powered, stand-alone neighborhood electronic bulletin board.

Why the company uses the Colombia domain (.co) and why things are called “Soofa” are not readily apparent.