Geolocated Media - I know where it's at!

I was recently at the HP Mediascape conference in Bristol, and wow, what a huge step geolocated media has taken these past few years. While it is still experimental, a bit clunky and semi-geeky (geek is cool ;) it is certainly a rapidly expanding medium. The conference featured case studies and presentations highlighting the immense potential for using this technology to enhance experiences of different environments and deliver content to an audience in a more dynamic and immersive way. From elements in alternative reality games to historical re-enactment tours around the Tower of London.

A Mediascape is a location-based experience, games and tours on a GPS handheld device. As you walk around a given area your GPS location triggers the playing of media in the application whether it be audio, images or video. As GPS devices become more widespread (how many people do you know with SatNav or a GPS mobile) this type of media becomes more justifiable for the big public service broadcasters to produce - they can reach more people. The British broadcasters already produce the best media in the world and this is yet another way in which our vast resources and archive can be re-packaged to reach a audience who might otherwise not receive this content -both at home and internationally.

HP have been developing this technology for a number of years and I remember Savannah which was created in associated with Futurelab and the BBC in Bristol. This was a strategy-based adventure game which allowed children to learn about life as a lion using their school playing field to mimic a Savannah, working together to hunt and survive. Read the Futurelab report here.

One I created earlier...NightlifeFor the nighttime challenge at the conference I, along with Mark Jacobs, Stuart Redding and Ed Drewitt, produced "Nighlife: World in a Square". We split Queens square, in Bristol, into four quarters, each representing a different continent. As you walk around the square you hear natural sounds from the nighttime of that continent - "can you guess where in the world you are?", walk a little further to see an image and hear a narration describing the natural sounds.

If Nightlife was an official geolocated experience connected to a public service production (channel4, BBC), we would need to include the capacity for the "immersee" to walk into any space, anywhere in the world, and unroll the experience around them, broadcasting not narrowcasting. And the Mscape software allows just that!

I found the Mscape creator software very intuitive and easy to work with, for the most part it is simply dragging and dropping onto a map. While you do need to understand the foundations of code to create more sophisticated experiences, anyone can get started with the basics. So download the toolkit and create a geolocated media guide around your garden. It may be a few years before the public service broadcasters can invest resources into producing such experiences for mass rollout but it is certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Paul Williams

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