Amplifying Our Reality- Research and Development into storytelling and placemaking with Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality
Jul 2018 18

“Immersive experiences require novel narrative mechanisms & new language of production… The best technology will not produce the change needed without equal excellence in content production and understanding of immersion as a narrative form” – Sir Peter Bazelgette, Creative Industries Review 2017

Over the last few months we’ve been exploring the huge possibilities of augmented reality and mixed reality storytelling for Digital Placemaking across cultural heritage, transport and health… Including projects experimenting with the possibilities of spatial and volumetric media, developing new workflows and tools, and exploring new devices and ways for audiences to engage in media that they can literally walk into and be part of.

Immersive Storylab Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality Storytelling Sizzler from Peter Woodbridge on Vimeo.

This includes projects using the latest mobile AR tech (ARKit, ARCore) and Mixed Reality headsets (Hololens) to bring history and heritage to life, to make invisible worlds visible and creating shared storyworld experiences that enchant everyday places and activities.

Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality has enormous potential to amplify our reality and make life that little bit more exciting. When anything or anywhere can be mediated, life is about to get very interesting indeed, new mediums and spaces for entertainment will be born, as well as new challenges and social implications…

Find out about some of the Immersive StoryLab’s practice-based Digital Placemaking R&D projects here…..

Immersive Storylab – Augmented Reality Storytelling Research

Digital Placemaking, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality News and Updates – Immersive Storylab
Jan 2018 10

Happy New Year.

Been super busy in the Immersive StoryLab, Manchester School of Art and CAVA over the last few months getting a few prototype R&D projects off the ground. Here’s a few of them that are currently in development for 2018:

Our Mythical Coast : Augmented Reality Storytelling and Digital Placemaking

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Britain’s coastline: 11,072 miles of cliffs, beaches, rocky coves, seaside promenades, and towns and villages; it’s a long, winding path with a vibrant history, capturing our powerful social and cultural connection with the sea. The coast of Britain is part of who we are, and very much a place of national contemplation, reflection and emotion. Coastal communities are saturated with evocative folklore. With stories of tunnel networks, sea caves, piracy, wrecking, slavery, smuggling and mythological creatures and characters. It’s a liminal space not fully explored.

We are currently working on a prototype with a number of partners, supported through the Creative XR content innovation programme from the Digital Catapult and Arts Council England, about a physical experience with this place. Using augmented reality’s capabilities at revealing new story worlds, unearthing hidden secrets and bringing invisible culture to life to enable us to re-encounter the landscape through a new kind of digital reality. Melding together fact and fiction, time and space, past and present this story carries an important message about protecting life in our seas.

If These Walls Could Talk…. Mixed Reality Placemaking Experiences

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A collaboration with the Centre for Architecture and the Visual Arts (CAVA) at University of Liverpool, Culture Liverpool and Draw and Code. For this, we are creating an interactive mixed reality Hololens experience that will take place in the old 19th Century jail cells in the iconic Unesco Heritage building St. Georges Hall. Using cutting edge holographic capture technology to create performances and interactions with characters from the past, this experience will enable visitors to go back in time, to really feel what it was like in a 19th Century prison and justice system.

Digital Placemaking : Speculative Design Research

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Over the coming years, spatial computing and next generation Mixed Reality Immersive Technologies have significant potential to disrupt how we design experiences for place as a hybrid physical-digital encounter. MR enables content to become something that can spatially envelop the user, adding layers to reality that have participatory, interactive and networked capabilities and adding new meaning to the experience of ‘being there’. Combined with the contextualising potential of new forms of spatial computing, powered by artificial intelligence, this means our notions and senses of place are likely to change significantly over the coming years- leading to new kinds of experiences, interactions and connections with the built environment and each other.

But what does this mean for Urban Reality? and how can we design interventions that can help with issues related to place? This project is an exploratory working group of technologists, thinkers, tinkerers, companies and place stakeholders to create some speculations for what we want Urban Digital Reality to be as part of a project developed by the Centre for Architecture and the Visual Arts (CAVA) at University of Liverpool.

Experiments

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We love the idea of voice as interface, so much so we’ve decided to incorporate it into a few of our projects. We have been experimenting with Google Home to create dynamic and personalised interactions with characters. See a bit of our AI Dynamic Storytelling Experiment here.

Other news

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Well done to Billy White, a graduate of MMU who has recently had his final year ‘Virtual Ride’ project showcased at Innovate UK’s annual gathering. Billy has been working with a number of companies with his idea, good luck to him.

Events

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In collaboration with bekt.io we’re helping to launch Immersive Liverpool, a group for people interested in Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality things, projects, experiments and networking. The first event takes place on 11th January 2018 at Sensor City in Liverpool City Centre.

Find out more about our Immersive Technology, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality adventures

Disrupted Space: Digital Placemaking, Augmented Reality and the re-territorialisation of the physical realm
Aug 2017 30

A rant……

One of the most transformative things about augmented reality and mixed reality are the abilities that it gives to add context and content to the world around us, to add layers of story and personal meaning to the hard architectures that often shapes our everyday experience of place. The promise of a technology that brings us back, rather than taking us away, to place and each other.

For as long as we’ve known it, place (the city, the built environment, public infrastructure) is something that has been done to us, not with us. Mediated through semi-permanent hard architectures and public artforms that are chosen by knowledge institutions as ways to often preserve stories of power and ownership over historical narratives. The grafitti makers and flyposterers challenged this notion with non-permanent (and kind of non-linear) artforms, but the democratic potential of space and the built environment has largely been an un-disruptible thing. But, despite its potential flaws, this kind of place had a sharedness, a unified conversation, a collective.

This is what makes the augmentation of space so intriguing. In that it offers a kind of potential for a counter-architecture, one where we are active in the construction and co-creation of space as lived experience. Whilst locative and situated media artists have long been experimenting with these notions, the technologies have remained largely in the hands of specialists and therefore power regimes that want to use screen technologies to alienate us, to atomise us and increasingly see us as a particular kind of individual.

Just like the early internet (the one we currently inhabit btw) democratised information and connection, I believe that the notion of augmented reality offers a similar democratising potential for our notions of place. Imagine a city that you can experience through the eyes of someone else, or through a contextual layer that you choose, or a ‘non-place’ that suddenly is rich in story because of the democratising abilities of digital technologies over physical material ones such as buildings. Imagine being in another place within place. All rather exciting.

But imagine if technology, rather than isolating us and individualising us, could actually bring us back together in the physical world. Sharing a mediation with others perhaps offers a kind of alternative to the notion of individual devices and screens.

But this comes with many caveats. Just like disruptive (virtualised) information and screen technologies impacted on the very essence of how we understand what information and communications is, and brought with it many consequences in digital and real culture (psycho-surveillance, behavioural manipulation, fake news, trolling, trump, brexit, spam, social anxiety) etc. So too will this disruption of hybrid physical space have a massive impact on our spatial culture. What that is precisely remains to be seen, but I sense and feel that it might be quite profound, scary and exciting.

With the coming onslaught of more intelligent forms of immersive technologies and spatial computing,  that understand the world in ways that increasingly resemble our own perceptual abilities, important questions about place are about to come into the fray. Who owns the right to this dataspace when it is increasingly attached to real place? Who owns my body space as I inhabit the public? How might the pervasive and rather imperialist ‘logic of silicon valley’ impact upon the way we inhabit, perceive and live through place? Will everything now just be one massive advertising emotional surveillance canvas as envisioned by science fiction? Will we become even more atomised in our augmented spatial filter bubbles?

Probably.

Mediating technologies, ones that we live through, are already hugely impacting our everyday experience of place. The current big shift of computing is to physical space (IoT, Smart Cities, Ambient/invisible computing/open data etc etc are all part of this logic of computing that is launching from screens into sensor-things and body-IoTs) and the next wave of tech.

Digital place, or as some now call it ‘Digital Reality’, is arguably the next cultural and disruptive battleground. A number of companies are looking to build out the map that will underpin the control and flows of this space, with technologies such as Google’s VPS, Apple’s ARkit and Microsoft’s Mixed Reality futures that will effect the inside of our homes, our cities, our countryside. Everything.

Here’s a little experiment made with #arkit and unity, playing with some ideas around augmented place and notions of here and now using 6 degrees of freedom augmented tech. There’s enormous potential in this for cities and placemaking: Imagine that we could step into history and be among the past, interacting with it as if it were around us- and even changing its outcome? Or walking into other cities and places? It’s a paradigm shifting for temporal and spatial thinking. Definitely going to develop some concepts with this.

It takes it’s inspiration from a reversal of a Guy Debord quote.

“Underneath the beach, the paving slabs”

Research Exploring Mixed Reality & Augmented Reality Storytelling and Digital Placemaking in the City
Nov 2016 30

I recently began my PhD research journey exploring mixed reality storytelling and digital placemaking in the smart city, as part of an AHRC Funded Collaborative Doctoral Award with McCann Manchester, the Virtual Engineering Centre and the Centre for Architecture and Visual Arts at Liverpool University.

My focus is looking at how immersive media technologies (such as mixed reality (AR/VR), internet of things, locative media, sensors and data) can be used to create imaginative interactions between people and place.

My aim is to find ways to conceptualise and develop prototypes to make urban spaces, heritage and culture more playful, imaginative & emotive through the use of mixed reality experiences and storyworlds — which will hopefully be useful knowledge for future AR practioners, spacemakers, media artists, placemakers, place hackers and urban designers.

The Practice-based PhD also involves a number of other collaborations within Arts, Culture organisations mainly in Manchester and Liverpool. Including several heritage and culture projects that enable you to spatially interact with the past, present and future.

Beacons for Science – A Virtual and Augmented Reality Placemaking App about Science in Manchester
Jul 2016 13

Over the past few months I have been collaborating with a number of partners on the ‘Beacons for Science’ project in Manchester, which is aiming to create an innovative Digital Placemaking app to experience Science in the City through Augmented and Virtual reality. Using beacon technology to enable people to experience science in new ways as they navigate the city.

My role has been to develop, co-ordinate and help facilitate the co-creation of the virtual reality and augmented story content, produced with the support of a number of cultural partners, artists, scientists and co-creators from around Manchester, and to work with the developers to shape the mixed reality user-experience.

There are a number of innovative features in the app, including virtual reality experiences that are triggered when walking around Manchester as well as interactive augmented reality content that enables users to look beyond the surface of the city. There are about 15 experiences in total that were created as a result of a series of hack labs taking place in Manchester as part of the European City of Science calendar.

These include:

  • a Virtual Reality look at the Urban Bees that live on top of Manchester Art Gallery
  • augmented experiences in a number of the libraries around Manchester including Science Footage from the North West Film Archive and the Portico Library
  • a 360 degree performance about the life of Alan Turing
  • a 360 view from the top of the Hilton Hotel
  • an augmented reality experience on the Manchester #astrotram
  • a virtual reality film of the radio telescope at the Jodrell Bank Observatory
  • an augmented reality experiment inspired by John Dalton
  • a Brian Cox ‘Coxemon’ avatar hidden around manchester
  • a tour of the Manchester Ship canal
  • #astrotrams – where people can see augmented reality content of the galaxy on a tram that also includes announcements from Professor Brian Cox
  • a virtual statue of RSPB Founder Emily Williamson.

We have also been involved in a series of public engagement events to showcase the Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality content across Manchester during the Euroscience Open Forum 2016 Conference, that has brought over 4000 scientists to the city.

Download the app here:

Here’s a short showreel of some of the 360 content and some images from the project:

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Immersive Storylab – Exploring Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Digital Placemaking
May 2016 11

“As connected devices and services continue to develop, filmmakers will be able to place a story layer over the real world. Inanimate objects and physical locations will become an opportunity to extend stories and engage audiences in ways that propel 21st-century storytelling.” Lance Weiler

This project is exploring the possibilities for transmedia, augmented and virtual reality storytelling by creating a number of experimental films that fuse filmmaking, digital environments and creative technologies. I am particularly interested in the way that these immersive environments create new forms of embodiment and can help us to experience geographical space in new ways.

Many people argue that VR can lead to highly empathetic and emotional kinds of storytelling experiences, which could have a number of applications for the social sciences, humanities and the arts. They therefore have really strong potential for storytellers addressing issues related to personal, cultural, social and behavioural change.

Filmmakers and storytellers who are working in this area are also having to rethink the way that they design ‘story architecture’ around non-linear forms of transmedia engagement. It is therefore an inter-disciplinary project that explores a range of areas such as the behavioural and cognitive sciences, user-experience design, immersive performance and transmedia storytelling.

We are currently developing a number of projects, campaigns and teaching initiatives with partners and organisations under this banner, so stay tuned for updates as they develop…

In the meantime, follow the Immersive Storylab on twitter for updates and links to work that we think is really exciting. Or get in touch with me to discuss a project via:  mail (at) petewoodbridge.info