Technology, art and social impact: Inside 'We Can Do Better' with Hamilton Robson and Nerve Centre

Groundbreaking collaborative project “We Can Do Better” demonstrates what’s possible when art, storytelling, and cutting-edge technology come together.

Hamilton Robson is thrilled to collaborate once again with Nerve Centre this Spring on the groundbreaking project “We Can Do Better”, funded by the NI Art’s Council, featuring the artist Joe Caslin and The Kindred Collective at the iconic Downhill House in Northern Ireland,. The experience showcases the incredible potential of AR technology in creating immersive, accessible, and socially impactful art experiences and builds on the foundation successful past projects like the award-winning collaboration “Our Place in Space.”

We Can Do Better is an an IWM 14-18 Legacy Fund commission in partnership with Nerve Centre, artist Joe Caslin and supported by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

With a wealth of experience in developing augmented reality (AR), Hamilton Robson were well placed to support such a creative project where tech adds a whole new dimension and adds huge amounts of value for the visitor. In this blog Hamilton Robson’s lead engineer Jake Young discusses his experience working on this project and shares insights from a technical and collaborative perspective!

 

We Can Do Better 

For “We Can Do Better,” Hamilton Robson is leveraging expertise in immersive technology to create an accessible, people-centred experience that amplifies the voices and stories of the young participants.

The team is developing an interactive augmented reality (AR) app that enhances public engagement with the artwork, creating a multi-layered experience that explores some of the issues affecting young people in Northern Ireland today.

 

 

The Experience 

At the heart of it all is Hamilton Robson’s Marvel platform, which is the secret sauce behind our most engaging and innovative digital experiences that power rich, multilanguage audio experiences like The Game of Thrones Studio Tour and Crumlin Road Gaol’s visitor experience apps.

Working closely with artist Joe Caslin, The Kindred Collective and Nerve Centre, our team’s creative approach is centred on understanding the project’s core message and collaborating to ensure the technology seamlessly integrates with the artistic vision.

The AR app is designed to contribute significantly to the overall impact of “We Can Do Better.” By extending Joe’s artwork and presenting the stories in an immersive spatial audio format, we aim to engage visitors on a profound level, and have a lasting impact.

Our objective is to foster a conversation about Northern Ireland’s future, encouraging visitors to reflect on their own stories and those of others. We envision the technology as a facilitator of dialogue, with the app serving as a guide, storyteller, and platform for shared experiences.

Designing an Immersive Technology experience

One of the key technical challenges the team is tackling is ensuring a seamless and immersive experience throughout the app without distracting from the physical experience.

Drawing from lessons learned in previous projects like “Our Place in Space,” we’re taking a decoupled approach to the AR experiences. This allows users to engage with the app naturally and at their own pace, ensuring that the technology remains a piece of the puzzle rather than a dependency.

“We Can Do Better” takes advantage of spatial audio, playing a crucial role in enabling visitors to feel the presence of the storytellers, making the experience more engaging and personal. To ensure the audio fits within the physical environment of Downhill House, we added effects that make the sound respond to the space realistically.

AR tracking on smartphones is used to accurately position the audio in the space seemingly physically, enhancing clarity and accessibility. Tracking in AR can be hard to communicate to the average user, so we have tried to make the use of AR to support its features as intuitive as possible.

To create an intuitive user experience, we focused on reducing barriers and increasing accessibility. The app features a colourful and clear onboarding process, allowing users to learn about the project and experience the AR and spatial audio features before arriving on-site. The user interface is designed to be secondary to the AR, minimising interactions and enabling users to immerse themselves in the experience fully.

The digital experience also facilitates multi-user interactives, enabling visitors to record and share their own stories while discovering others using the Marvel platform. Operational tools also enable active and automated user-generated content moderation and publishing. Powerful features delivering the theme of “We Can Do Better,” fostering a sense of community, shared perspectives and safe transparency.

Exploring what’s possible 

“We Can Do Better” is just the beginning of what’s possible when art, storytelling, and cutting-edge technology come together. As we prepare for the launch in May, 2024, at Downhill House, we invite you to be a part of this groundbreaking experience.

 

 

Our collaboration with Joe Caslin and Nerve Centre on this project showcases the incredible potential of AR in empathy, understanding, and community engagement. As we continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible with this technology, we remain committed to creating accessible, impactful experiences that resonate with audiences and drive positive change.

Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor, your participation will help shape the narrative of “We Can Do Better.” Engage with the stories, leave your mark, and take part in special events like the “Seanchoiche” and “Horizon Song.” This is more than an art exhibit; it’s a platform for change and a place for healing.

Get involved!

Together, we can create a lasting impact that extends far beyond the walls of Downhill House. By participating in “We Can Do Better,” you become an integral part of shaping the conversation about Northern Ireland’s future and fostering a sense of community and understanding.

Keep an eye out for updates on the experience on our socials or using the Nerve Centre’s project page: https://nervecentre.org/culture/we-can-do-better-project

Funders and partners

We Can Do Better, Joe Caslin, an IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund commission in partnership with Nerve Centre, with additional support from Arts Council Northern Ireland.

 

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