Using Mediascapes for Gaming

I didn't think I would be allowed to write about this - but HP made headlines recently with this story. I had an opportunity to play a game at HP Labs based on Mediascape technology. It was an immersive game that could be used for educational purposes.

HP researchers are working with the U.K.’s Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity that cares for and conserves five unique palaces, to pilot a new location-aware adventure game in which visitors to the Tower of London help virtual prisoners to escape.

Yeoman Sergeant Vic Lucas with a radio "pinger" used to warn players of approaching Beefeaters in the Tower of London Mediascape game, created by HP Labs.

The game, developed by the Mediascapes research team at HP Labs and staff at the Tower of London, uses HP iPAQ handheld devices and location sensors including GPS. Digital files containing voices, images, music and clues are placed in specific locations using the HP Labs Mediascape authoring toolkit.

As players move into a location in the Tower and its grounds, the appropriate digital file is triggered on their iPAQ devices. This allows players to meet historical prisoners in the Tower, such as Guy Fawkes and Anne Boleyn, one of Henry VIII’s wives. Even the Tower’s Yeomen Warders, nicknamed Beefeaters, become part of the game as players try to help historical figures escape.

For HP, the interest in exploring this area of mobility is to understand the opportunities for new products and services that will emerge around the delivery of location and other context-based experiences.

“This is part of a wider project we are running to investigate how locative services might evolve based on user experience,” said Josephine Reid, who is leading the HP Labs team. “We think of this as a new medium, like a digital fourth dimension laid over a physical space. Understanding its value will enable us to go beyond the delivery of ‘anything, anytime, anywhere,’ to the delivery of the ‘right thing at the right time to the right place.’”

The pilot will be tested by members of Historic Royal Palaces and HP between Oct. 23 and 28. Some of the historical characters will try to persuade the players to help them escape using the same methods as the character actually used: finding ropes, bribing guards, smuggling letters and, of course, avoiding the patrolling Beefeaters. Succeed in avoiding the guards and the prisoner escapes; fail and the player will be locked up in the Tower – virtually at least.

“We’re interested in exploring how new technologies can help visitors become active participants in some of the Tower’s most exciting stories,” said Aileen Peirce, exhibition project manager at the Tower. “We hope that members will enjoy playing this innovative game on the actual sites where history happened.”

Historic Royal Palaces (www.hrp.org.uk) is an independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace. These palaces are owned by the Queen on behalf of the nation and managed by Historic Royal Palaces for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. It receives no state funding and depends on the support of visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors.

The Tower of London project is the latest in a series of experimental Mediascapes created by HP Labs Bristol in recent years. Others include:

Riot 1831 – an interactive, location-based play for voices re-creating the drama, fear and mayhem of an infamous riot in Queen Square, Bristol. More than 100 digital files were placed in 37 locations so users walking through the square experienced the drama firsthand.

Scape the Hood – A Mediascape experiment in San Francisco to investigate the potential for combining storytelling with location-aware mobile technologies. Participants were able to walk around the Mission Village Market and other areas and learn about history, culture and stories through Mediascapes created by local people who recall past times.

Savannah – a schools educational project involving Futurelab, the BBC, HP Labs and the University of Bristol. Groups of children take the role of prides of young lions hunting on the African savannah (a school playing field). They have to act as a group to tackle big game, find water and learn when to fight or run.

BBC Festival of Nature – The BBC Natural History Unit used HP Labs Mediascape technology to create a nature walk for the public around the city of Bristol and its historic harbor-side.

The HP Labs Mediascape authoring toolkit is available as a free download for non-commercial use.

Check out the rest of the press release here.


Anonymous said...

I always said Cellphone/PGA gaming would never take off. Said thuis 3 years ago. I was correct. the Nokia Ngage died. Cell phones have tiny los resolution screens and crappy graphics. even if the graphics are improved you still got tiny low rez screens to deal with.

Anonymous said...


Are all your posts going to be about HP now? I like reading your blog occasionally, but if it's just going to be about HP, HP technology, or HP sponsored material, I'd rather read press releases all day instead.

I understand that you're a HP employee now, but it'd be much more interesting (to me anyways) if you remained impartial. How about writing your blog on your off time so that you don't have to pump HP?

Taylor Martin said...

Hey man, just wanted to let you know that the voodoopc page has been loading tons faster the last day or so. Figured you might have changed servers over to Hp's or something :). Hope to see some kick ass new stuff from you soon.