The Town Bringing History to Life With Technology

Bedford has launched a project called Digital Ghost Signs, combining public art with digital technology to bring the town’s history to life, the BBC reports.

The project aims to use tech to inform and inspire a new generation about Bedford’s past.

People can use their mobile phones to scan murals around the town which will start games revealing facts dating back to the 18th century, providing an interactive way for people to get more involved with Bedford’s local history.

The Digital Art Murals

Bedford Creative Arts (BCA) and students from Bedford College have worked with digital artist Clemence Debaig to create an app which will use augmented reality to offer a deeper experience of the murals around the town. Once scanned, three virtual experiences will be brought to life by mobile devices allowing people to learn about the town’s history.

Over the course of 8 weeks, students from Bedford College co-created an app with Ms Debaig. Together, they collected local stories and created an app which contains the stories behind each mural.

Bedford borough councillor Andrea Spice said the augmented reality games brought “the history of Bedford High Street to life”.

The three games are free for players to access by scanning a QR code near the corresponding mural.

What Is Augmented Reality?

Besides offering insight into local history, Digital Ghost Signs has also offered students the opportunity to work in digital art to shape the way people experience their town centre, giving them a better understanding of how augmented reality can be incorporated into our local environment.

Augmented reality is an interactive experience where you use technology, such as a mobile phone, to superimpose images, texts or sounds on top of what you see. To experience augmented reality, you must use an app and hold your camera to an object. Once your camera recognises the object, the phone makes the viewer see superimposed images, texts or sounds through their device’s camera.

A popular example of augmented reality is the app Pokémon-Go, which invites users to wander the world and ‘catch’ Pokémon; when users ‘caught’ a creature, their device would superimpose the image of the creature. Augmented reality offers us the opportunity to see more than reality – it offers us a new prism for viewing and exploring our local environment.

The Art Murals: A Closer Look

The Vault is one of the innovative virtual experiences and it can be found at the site of the old Barnard Bank. Secondly, the Re-imagine the Skies mural is on Lime Street and, finally, the Cardington Sheds mural is on Mill Street.

To get an idea of what happens when a mural is scanned: The Vault game focuses on the history of the town’s High Street, aviation heritage and airships respectively. Players of The Vault have to explore the High Street to crack a code to complete the game.

Unwired Studio created the games and is comprised of lead artist Clemence Debaig, Bedford artist and game designer David Thatcher and Alexander MacKinnon, a 3D illustrator.

Ami Aubrey, programme producer for BCA, said the game “takes about 15 minutes to play”.

Ms Spice, a portfolio holder for town centres and planning, said it “takes it to a whole new level by giving you the opportunity to immerse yourself in our town’s heritage”.

BCA director Elaine Midgley hopes the game will demonstrate “how public art can be more than meets the eye through digital tech”.