Rider Spooke: Barbican in London

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Mixed Reality Lab at University of Nottingham: Rider Spoke is a new work for cyclists on the streets around the Barbican in London. Check it. There are lots of other cool GPP projects and videos if you find spatial-aware systems applications as fascinating as I do.

The audience will come to the Barbican either on their own bike or to borrow one. Following a short introduction and a safety briefing you head out into the streets with a handheld computer (Nokia N800) mounted on the handlebars. You are given a question and invited to look for an appropriate hiding place where you will record your answer. The screen of the device acts primarily as a positioning system, showing where you are and whether there are any hiding places nearby. The interface employs imagery drawn from Mexican votive painting, sailor tattoos and heraldry: swallows flutter across the screen to show available hiding places, prefab houses indicate places where others have hidden.

Once you find a hiding place – a spot previously undiscovered by any other player – the device flashes an alert and the question. The question is one of a selection authored by Blast Theory that asks you – alone, in an out of the way spot – to reflect on your life. You then record your answer onto the device. Each hiding place combines two properties: the physical location and the electronic location as reported by the device and, for this reason, position itself is slippery and changeable. This is especially true as the University of Nottingham has designed and built a system that uses wifi access points to determine the position of each rider.

The other aspect of the game is to find the hiding places of others. When you find one the device alerts you to stop and then shows you the question that that person answered and plays you their answer. The recordings that people make are only available in this context: played to a player, alone, in the place where they were recorded.

As you roll through the streets your focus is outward, looking for good places to hide, speculating about the hiding places of others, becoming completely immersed into this overlaid world as the voices of strangers draw you into a new and unknown place.

The streets may be familiar but you’ve given yourself up to the pleasure of being lost.


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