Claiming the title of the world’s first interactive live documentary using iBeacon technology, Door Into The Dark uses an aural soundscape to heighten the sense of total immersion as audio triggered by iBeacons carve out the participants’ pathway through the piece. Working with immersive theatre company and Pervasive Media Studio resident Anagram, Calvium acted as Technology partner to the project.
Door Into The Dark is an example of how iBeacons are being used creatively, outside of their traditional use in retail marketing and promotion. Blindfolded and lead by a rope, a mobile application on a phone hidden in the blindfold plays an audio narrative – including documentary stories and instructions that enable participants to navigate through the tactile landscape. The set and the audio content are designed to be of equal importance for the experience of the participant – and it is the iBeacons that make that possible, as they allow audio chapters to be triggered at exactly the right moment.
Amy and May, who together make Anagram had been making documentary films for almost ten years and visited ‘immersive’ theatre events often. After a while they became curious about whether and how the two art forms could meet.
We would often go along to see pieces of immersive theatre and feel curious about whether you could use documentary content in that form. We had never encountered anything that did that in an interesting way, and documentary film being our specialism, we always wanted to give it a go.
Anagram began their residency at The Pervasive Media Studio in December 2013 where they began working on making Door Into The Dark a reality. With the idea still in its infancy, Anagram had not yet made a decision on what technology they were going to use to do it, so they approached Calvium.
When we applied for the residency we knew we wanted to use some kind of responsive tech. I knew Calvium were in the PM Studio so I had a meeting with Tom Melamed who first suggested we should use iBeacons.
How Calvium helped
Our technological grasp was essential to the experience of the user. We took a staged approach to working with Anagram and the technology. Firstly we worked with them to get to a point where we all understood what it felt like triggering audio based on iBeacons in a contained space. Then we built a system and installed the beacons so that they could quickly and easily tweak the experience without needing to ask us for every change, this gave them the control they needed and sped up the development process. Finally we added monitoring so that Anagram could track each user and learn from the journeys that people took.
Results and Future Plans
Door Into The Dark has since gained worldwide accolades and received incredible feedback. It premiered at Sheffield iDocs where Ingrid Kopp, Director of Interactive at the Tribeca Film Institute reviewed it as; ‘…Incredible. The kind of experience where the world feels different afterwards.’
Calvium took our ideas and aims, and made them technically viable via creative solutions. It was Calvium’s input on our approach that led to the use of beacons in Door Into The Dark and we’ve never looked back.