Art turns to iBeacon for commemorating WWI


We  love to see Estimote Beacons used in unusual ways. That’s why we were awestruck when we found out about the Elegy for forgotten sounds by The Reference digital agency and Belgian sound artist Elias Vervecken. The Concert Hall of Bruges asked them to create an installation to commemorate World War I. What they delivered is stunning: both as a work of art and as a piece of technology.

Elegy for forgotten sounds allows visitors to experience the cacophony of WWI’s battlefield. Each person picks a timpani stick and as participants approach the installation--set of ammunition shells hanging from a dead tree--they are launched into the middle of wartime chaos of sounds ands smoke. The interaction between visitors and the installation is possible because of Estimote Beacons.

Usually, the mobile phones are in motion and beacons remain at their fixed locations. The Reference, however, introduced a twist. In this case, beacons were attached to the sticks, while a single iPhone was hidden inside the tree. The phone runs the Elegy for forgotten sounds app which determines distance to each stick, unleashing sounds and smoke to create a gripping experience.

This installation requires distance readings to be accurate and update in real time. For reasons we’ve already explained (long story short: physics), it’s not that easy to achieve with iBeacon. So The Reference decided to do what any self-respecting team of engineers and creatives would: use their impeccable hacking skills against any issue faced. They built custom antennas and installed them on Intel Edison devices around the room to harvest more data from beacons and achieve better accuracy. They’ve also used pairs of beacons on each stick, aligned in a right angle, to get the best signal reception regardless of how participants hold the sticks. On top of that, The Reference leveraged accelerometer embedded in Estimote Beacons and the Motion UUID feature to make the iPhone only interact with beacons in motion.

The Reference went a long way to hone the user experience to perfection. It paid off: the Elegy for forgotten sounds was met with universal acclaim and Concert Hall of Bruges will be adding the installation to its permanent exhibition later this year.

Read about ART BEEKN to see more examples of beacons implemented in art.

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