A great post about locatative technology at Walt Disney World, Florida

A forcibly disassembled MagicBand, revealing parts that include a coin-cell battery, RFID chip, coiled and copper antennae, microcontroller and integrated circuit, plastic battery and IC housing, and rubber wristband enclosure. Picture linked from Medium.com

I should be writing another post entirely, but I got sucked into reading Welcome to Dataland, which makes me admire Disney so much (again) and fear them, just a little…

I particularly like the citing of “what the science-fiction writer Bruce Sterling has called design fiction, a kind of design that “tells worlds rather than stories.””

Gamer data – the heart of the matter (oh dear)

Enough pussyfooting around with ludic.interest. We conducted this survey because we wanted to get an idea of what would encourage people to play a game that used mobile technology to engage players in the story that take place in a number of cultural heritage locations around Southampton. (Though in other news, our funding bid for that project fell at the second hurdle, so this research is likely to now be, both literally and metaphorically “academic.”)

We already know that awareness to these sorts of games is relatively low, but by seeing if there’s a relationship between any of the four Fun preferences described by Lazarro and the respondents’ stated interest in location based gaming (which itself wasn’t explicitly covered in Lazarro’s work), we might have a better idea of what sort of game mechanics appeal best to the audience we’d need to attract.

We asked four questions suggested by our technology provider in this section, where the response was recorded on a 101 point Likert scale:

  • If a mobile game used location would this be of interest to you?
  • Use this slider to show how much you’d prefer working in a team or as an individual, in a location based game
  • Would you be interested in a mobile game that uses digital artefacts / objects alongside real world locations? and
  • How much does the game featured in this video interest you? [we used a promotional video for Chromarama]

So, the first thing I did in R was to change the variable names (which were sucked into R in the form of the whole question plus instructions about using the slider), into something that would be easier to read on plots, then create a scatterplot matrix ordered by degree of correlation:


So what does that show us? That the locatative gaming  questions all seem to correlate with each other. As do the Fun preferences. But the correlation between fun preferences and locatative gaming responses is weaker. A preference for People fun, for example, only correlates with responses to the Teamwork question (and frankly I’d be worried if it didn’t!).

More worryingly, only the Hard fun preference correlates at all with the core measure of interest in a mobile game that uses location. Lets look at that in more detail:


Oh dear. There’s the positive slope which, at first glance, suggests some correlation, but check out the confidence curve (I used the R package ggplot2 to create this). There’s space within that to flatten out the regression line. I “cannot reject the null hypothesis”. Blast! And check out all those dots down on zero, expressing no interest at all in  a locatative game! Double blast! Maybe its just as well we didn’t get the funding 😦

The matrix also shows some correlation between Easy fun preference and interest in searching for digital artifacts in real-world locations. And on closer examination, the plot looks more attractive, greater interest overall, but again, I can not reject the null-hypothesis:


And the so called correlation between Serious Fun preference and interest in the example video has even worse confidence intervals (and a massive p value of 0.36):


The only positive result I’ve found so far is the apparent correlation between working in a team and finding digital artefacts, wherein I can (just about) reject the null hypothesis.


I guess these two mechanics have some history together in the world of scavenger hunts. But it seems I can’t yet claim from this research, that the world is ready and waiting for locatative games.

The CHESS Experience

Why haven’t I discovered this before? Last week an email from the Guardian Cultural network pointed me to a headline reading “Tell me a story: augmented reality technology in museums“. Now augmented reality articles are two a penny, but “tell me a story” had me intrigued. So I clicked through, and got very excited reading the stand-first, which said “Storytelling is key to the museum experience, so what do you get when you add tech? Curator-led, non-linear digital tales.”

“Non-linear”?! that’s a phrase very close to my heart, so I’ve spent all morning reading about the CHESS Experience project.

(Well I spent some of my morning thinking “Oh no, that’s what I wanted to do! How come Southampton University isn’t part of that project? Why didn’t I do my PhD at Nottingham? That’s where all the cool kids hang out, apparently.” But having wallowed in a bit a self-pity, I got back to reading.)

CHESS stands for Cultural Heritage Experiences through Socio-personal interactions and Storytelling, which sounds right up my street. And the project summary says “An approach for cultural heritage institutions (e.g. museums) would be to capitalize on the pervasive use of interactive digital content and systems in order to offer experiences that connect to their visitors’ interests, needs, dreams, familiar faces or places; in other words, to the personal narratives they carry with them and, implicitly or explicitly, build when visiting a cultural site.” This is all good stuff.

But actually the reality of the project so far doesn’t seem quite as exciting as I’d hoped. The “personalised” story in A Digital Look at Physical Museum Exhibits: Designing Personalized Stories with Handheld Augmented Reality in Museums, seems rather to be just two presentations of story, one for children (in which, for example, the eyes of the remnant head of a statue of Medusa glow scarily) and one for adults (wherein the possible shape of the whole statue fills in the gaps between the pieces).  A Life of Their Own: Museum Visitor Personas Penetrating the Design Lifecycle of a Mobile Experience, discusses visitors preparing for their visit by completing a short quiz on the museum’s website. When they arrive their mobile device will offer them a stories design for a limited list of “personas.” This isn’t personalisation, but rather profiling, as we discussed at The Invisible Hand. And the abstract for Controlling and Filtering Information Density with Spatial Interaction Techniques via Handheld Augmented Reality describes “displaying seamless information layers by simply moving around a Greek statue or a miniature model of an Ariane-5 space rocket.” This doesn’t seem to be offering the dynamic, on-the-fly adaptive narrative I was hoping for.

But its good stuff, none-the less, and there’s a great looking list of references which I want to explore. There’s also project participant Professor Steve Benford (who does little to disprove the theory that all the cool kids go to Nottingham). He’s a banjo-pickin’ guitar playin’ musician and Professor of Collaborative Computing, who among many, many other things has published a bunch of papers on pervasive games and performance, which I think my Conspiracy 600 colleagues might want to (need to) read.

Steve also provides the soundtrack for this post, which I hope you enjoy.