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iBeFUN - Beacons for Fun

Pervasive  computing  technologies  have  radically  altered  how  individuals  relate  to  each  other 
and  to  their  environments.  Technologies  such  as  Beacons  are  pushing  the  intersections 
between  the  physical,  social  and  digital  domains.  Like  any  new  technology  its usage is mostly 
targeting  incremental  innovation  of  existing  commercial  applications  from  micro-location  to 
payments,  marketing,  health,  security,  product  information,  etc.  This  project  explores  a  new 
way  of  using  Beacons  that  goes  beyond  finding  your  car  keys  or  guiding  a  client  in  a  retail 
store.  We  propose  to  use  beacons  technology  to  enhance  locative  entertainment,  which 
frames  mobility  not  as  a  problem  to  be  overcome  but  as  both  an  everyday  fact  and  a  new 
opportunity  to  create  interactive  experiences  that  rely  upon  or  exploit  movement  and  space. 
The  motivation  for  this  work  is  that  the  conscious  layering  of  space  and  narrative  provides  a 
deeply compelling experience and a high level of immersion. 

This  project  builds  on  years  of  experience  working  with  location-aware  multimedia  stories 
which  implies  understanding  mobility  in  its  cultural  settings,  requiring  that  we  pay  attention  to 
the  symbolic  and  aesthetic  aspects  of  technological  urbanism  as  well  as  the  purely 
instrumental.  In  this  particular  project  we  propose  to  unfold  a  mobile-based,  context  aware 
transmedia  narrative in the city of Funchal, Madeira Island, Portugal. ​The audience explores the
narrow alleyways in search of a lost 18th-century herbarium and the historic, cultural, and
scientific knowledge it contains. The experience is mediated through a custom mobile
application that provides context-aware sensing to guide the audience. The story unfolds
through audiovisual content and interactive artefacts placed around locations in the city.

We propose to use the beacons and the physical web platform to explore:
● Detect proximity for immaterial media content (e.g. gossips)
● Improve GPS accuracy and trigger content if user is in range of 2+ beacons
● Role playing and enhancement of indoor experiences (e.g. escape rooms)
● Advertisement and location-based activity without the use of GPS

Our research question is to explore and evaluate how the Google Beacon platform and the
physical web can enhance the transmedia location based storytelling experience, in particular:
1. Materialise digital media in the physical space and help users navigate the mixed space;
2. Understand if new IoT technologies enhance the locative entertainment experience;
3. Explore how media related concepts emerge (or become salient) from the combination of
locative entertainment and IoT technologies (e.g. gossips, rumours - combining proximity
with volume level);
4. Explore how IoT technologies can trigger different points of view for storytelling elements
in locative entertainment experiences (e.g. adapting the story to proximity);
5. Evaluate locative entertainment experience with and without IoT technologies;
Technical Detail

Through our transmedia experience, visitors in Madeira island equipped with a smartphone will
embark on a tour that will allow them to find some clues as to the whereabouts of the famous
fictional botanist Laura Silva. The story unfolds as the audience walks through the Funchal
historical center, in each location the audience follows Laura’s adventures and discoveries, her
victories and misfortunes and in the end discovers her old secret hideout. The experience is
supported by a location-aware mobile platform, with the aid of several transmedia points
distributed along a physical path.
For a successful and engaging experience we will make use of 7 story locations, 5 gossip
locations and the final physical installation. In the story locations, we will make use of the
Eddystone beacons (7 beacons) to know the position of the user and trigger the appropriate
content. This content can be audiovisual media or an interactive VR scene. For the gossip
locations, we will try to mimic a natural behavior of “eavesdropping”, allowing the users to listen
on the secondary characters gossiping about the main character. This will be achieved by
mapping the strength of the signal emitted by the Eddystone beacons (5 beacons ) to the audio
volume of the gossip. Finally, the physical installation will use Eddystone beacons (4 beacons)
to map the position of the user in the room, triggering changes in the environment of the
physical installation. Additionally, we will also combine eddystone beacons (4 beacons) with
physical objects in order to use the movement of the physical object as an input for changes in
the environment. Basically, this physical installation will offer the same puzzle solving
experience as traditional espape room would but enhanced with affordances given by beacons
to create a magical proximity-aware experience. Overall we would require around 20 Beacons
to successfully implement this transmedia experience.
We envision this mobile application being implemented using the Unity game engine for
handling all the multimedia content and the motive.io (​http://www.motive.io/​) platform to handle
the location tasks (GPS, maps, etc.) and using the Physical web to help promote the transmedia
experience and facilitate the process of obtaining the mobile application.