'This Is Capital City' brings interactive story and beacons to Brisbane Powerhouse

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Interaction between the audience and the performers is one of those things that make us enjoy theatre the most. Some contemporary artists stretch it a little further, they let the audience decide the course of action: Sandra Carluccio and Clinton Freeman are among them. And they’re also on the cutting edge of technology, employing Estimote Beacons to let people interact with the story of This is Capital City, which is coming to Queensland’s Brisbane Powerhouse in October.

This Is Capital City made its debut back in 2013 at La Boite Indie. The show, directed by Sandra Carluccio with Clinton Freeman handling the underlying software, gained critical acclaim thanks to the way it immersed the audience. It follows a story of investigating death of a colleague in dystopian future but it’s you, not the script, who decides how it unravels. You’re given a smartphone with a dedicated app and a set of headphones and as you walk around the venue, content is triggered, depending on your location. Can you solve the mystery?

Making the show work was a major technical challenge. When the authors first started thinking about using location-based technology in a performance, it was 2012. They tried with pre-BLE versions of Bluetooth, but the outcome was far from desired. Finally, they settled on GPS, but it still wasn’t what they were looking for. And finally, they discovered beacons. After a bit of testing, they knew this is the tool they were looking for.

We used GPS a couple of times for performances but the accuracy was very rough. At BEST we could get maybe 10 meter resolution. It was difficult to get the audience to the exact spot they needed to be (or for us to work out if the audience was at a location that needed a sound or video to play). Plus it wouldn't work indoors. We could only do outdoor events.

BLE and Estimote solved all those problems. Reliable, accurate and battery powered! says Clinton.

And here’s a little something for the crafty art enthusiasts out there: Clinton has released the TriggerTracker tool powering This Is Capital City as open source. You can find it on GitHub.

For more uses of iBeacon in art, be sure to read about ART BEEKN exhibition in Cologne and Belgian Elegy for forgotten sounds project.

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