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History Unwired


About the Project
History Unwired is a walking tour through one of Venice’s more hidden neighborhoods, delivered over location-aware, multimedia phones and PDAs. Developed in 2005, this project was a first-ever mix of mobile video, animation, audio, and bluetooth locative technologies in the tourism sector. The tour takes visitors around the neighborhood of Castello, guided by the voices of Venetian citizens who depict a particularly local experience of art and craft, history and folklore, public and private spaces.

See complete demo of the project and get more information at web.mit.edu/frontiers

Our Process

History Unwired tested its course on Motorola a1000 smartphones and Dell Axim X50 Pocket PC's.

Our philosophy was to develop "content-driven technology". That is, instead of creating filler for new technology, we developed innovative stories and adapted the technology to those stories. Thus we had formed a relationship with Dell, Motorola and MIT Media Lab that allowed us to develop software and features in Smartphones that arose from storytelling needs and human interaction with mobile media.

We used the location sensing ability of bluetooth beacons to trigger interactive art along the course and to reward prudent exploration of private spaces. The plot, path, and tone of the content evolves according to individual’s footsteps.

AGPS (Assisted Global Positioning System)
We developed several location-specific "media clouds" along the bustling, Via Garibaldi, a key point in the tale of Castello's evolution after World War II. AGPS available on 3G phone networks can sense the general location of the walker and load a sound-video collage as they move down the street. (this feature was only modelled for the 2005 experiment)

We used the sophisticated web browsers on these phones to display Flash content and seemlessly link to video content.

We installed two interactive art pieces along the course that activated in the presence of bluetooth. Panels in the facade of an abandoned greenhouse had been covered with black, thermachromic ink. When walkers passed by the greenhouse a circuit was tripped by bluetooth in the devices and the panels were heated to reveal a growing plant form in the facade. We also coated hanging laundry with thermachromic ink, and wires in the laundry heat up to reveal the outline of the landscape you were viewing. (This art was created by Amanda Parkes and Jussi Angesleva.)


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