Archbishop’s Palace Project
Earlier this year (2015) I applied for an internship offered by Nottingham Broadway in Collaboration with the Southwell Minster. Specifically the internship involved the Archbishop’s palace which is adjacent to the Minster and was the subject of an EU and Lottery Heritage funded renovation.
Following an interview process I was selected for the position and given the task of ‘Creating something digital’ to engage visitors. This was a remit given due to the requirements of the funding sources and also the previous procurement of 10 iPod devices by the Minster that had to be used in some way.
With such a wide scope, it was deemed prudent to narrow the focus to a particular group of visitors, specifically organised school groups. Following a meeting with the education liaison team in order to determine any requirements I proceeded with the design of a Unity3D based mobile game that would use Augmented Reality technology to engage the schoolchildren in a treasure hunt in the main hall and the exhibit space of the palace. Essentially the visitors would be split into groups and given a mobile device which would guide them to various points of interest around the minster. When the group arrived at a location they would be presented with a question based ion the educational curriculum. Following this they would be given a ‘fun task’ to accomplish, similar to those given on the fly by the teachers.
Following a month of development a catchup meeting was held with the internship supervisors to show demonstrate the app. During this meeting I was given one of the iPod devices to test the application. From this 2 issues arose. The first was that the process for deploying any application on an Apple device requires a yearly subscription to the Apple developer program which would have long term implications for the project. The second issue was that the acquired devices lacked a rear-facing camera. This was a surprise as the available specifications for the device, that I had been designing for, made no mention of this. In fact the 10 devices where part of a limited production run where the camera was omitted. These were then discontinued.
Faced with this technological limitation, the Augmented reality based application, which relied on a rear facing camera, had to be scrapped. This also meant that other similar interactions, such as Aestheticodes or QR codes, could not be used. Thus, in keeping with the game design which was based on device proximity to the Points of Interest around the palace, a non camera based option had to be found. In the end, the technology that was used was Low-Energy Bluetooth beacons that could be placed around the palace, guiding the players to the various exhibits. Additionally a web based interface was provided for the teachers to update the education material that the app delivered.