Another fun project from the archives… In 2015 I was approached by Melissa Field, a board member of the Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement to develop a pilot project combining augmented reality and on-location radio drama recording techniques to encourage young people to experience the outdoors.
“Our goal is to encourage people to go outside, use technology, and learn more about their surroundings,” said Field, “These on-demand tours enhance the experience of enjoying cultural and ecological gems in Saco Bay, because we combine nature with history and the arts.”
Our pilot audio drama project centered on the Eastern Trail behind the hospital in Biddeford, offering listeners with an… ah… entertaining way to experience the Trail’s ecology: via a goofy horror story, entitled, “Vampire at the Vernal Pool.”
Audio storyteller Fred (that’s me) wrote, directed, and produced the show. Students from both the high school and middle school in Biddeford performed the drama, which was recorded on-location on the Trail.
“This project created a real-world production experience for the students; and for the listener, an augmented reality experience of being in the middle of a vampire story. I dare hikers and cyclists to listen to this thing on the trail at night!” said Greenhalgh.
Project leader Melissa Field secured the use of the base map developed for the Eastern Trail Alliance. The base map was created by Black Fly Interactive of Rollinsford, New Hampshire.
The map is located on a server accessed by going to www.sacobaymaps.org. Jeff Palleiko, a partner at Black Fly Interactive, installed a device snifter on the site to identify mobile devices and take users directly to the map, avoiding the homepage entirely.
“Mobile users can go to one of the three locations and access an audio tour in three simple steps. Jeff really made the process easy for the smartphone user,” said Field.
Leading the augmented reality space, currently, are two high tech start-up companies, each offering on-demand tours. One company, Detour, is located in San Francisco and another, Voice Map, is based out of South Africa.
“What sets our project apart is that we use resident voices rather than professional narrators and actors. We shine a light on our local teachers, students, historians and naturalists and let them tell the home town stories,” said Field.
For the demo project, Field enlisted the participation of Katy Nicketakis, the French teacher at Thornton Academy, Eva Tomecka, the Spanish teacher at Old Orchard Beach High School, and Carolyn Gosselin, an English teacher at Biddeford High School.
Justin Chenette, the founder of the Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement, says this project is just the beginning.
“The next step is fundraising to develop an app and present workshops to help more teachers learn how to create content that we can upload to the map,” said Chenette.