Pokemon Go-inspired tech at our science city showcase

Brian Cox AR
You can find Prof Brian Cox’s AR avatar hidden in the posters at Number 70 Oxford Street!

Pokémon Go may have grabbed the world’s attention with its ingenious use of Augmented Reality (AR); but there is also some amazing AR being showcased at the European City of Science (ECOS) next week.

For most people in the world, it will have been almost impossible not to notice that gaming giant Nintendo released a new app for smartphones last week.  The app integrates Nintendo’s incredibly successful Pokémon world with our very own reality, and people have taken to walking around en masse trying to ‘catch them all’, visiting key locations on the map to stock up on supplies, and seeking out fights with other Pokémon enthusiasts at ‘gyms’.

One such location is Manchester Met’s John Dalton statue. Crowds have been gathering around one of Manchester’s scientific pioneers to do battle. However, the statue is also being used for a number of different activities across the ECOS festival, including the inspired Beacons project, which also harnesses the power of AR to bring places of interest to life, including a surprise Prof Brian Cox AR avatar!

IMG_0310The technology and events were showcased on Thursday evening (pictured left) as Number 70 Oxford Street, the official home of the Science in the City festival, hosted the launch of the University’s ECOS celebrations.

Manchester Met’s AR specialists Peter Woodbridge, Senior Lecturer in Filmmaking at the Manchester School of Art, and Dr Timothy Jung, Director of the Augmented and Virtual Reality Hub, as well as Dr Sam Illingworth, Senior Lecturer in Science Communication, have been working on this Salford University-led project which uses digital content to bring the science of the city to life. The aim is to create a new experience for visitors to the city as their mobile devices allow them to ‘stumble upon’ surprising and inspiring stories of Manchester’s scientific past, present and future.

These locations could also be ‘stumbled across’ on the fascinating walking tours led by blue badge guide and Manchester historian Jonathan Schofield. They are inspired by ‘A New Manchester Alphabet’, a book of illustrated poems produced by staff and students at Manchester Met that recreates a seminal 1906 work ‘A Manchester Alphabet’. The City of Science Tour will take place on 24th, 26th & 28th July, starting outside Manchester Central and continuing across the city.

Brian Cox
Prof Brian Cox’s avatar

However, the Beacons project is not the only AR work being carried out over the ECOS festival; Manchester Met’s Tor Yip, Projects Officer for Augmented Reality, is bringing key figures from Manchester’s past to life with an amazing Hogwarts-style experience.  If you have ever wanted to hear directly from Alan Turing, John Dalton and Elizabeth Gaskell, then this is your chance, with portraits of Manchester’s scientific past speaking to you directly from your smartphone. The Talking Heads exhibition will be held at the Radisson hotel throughout the ECOS festival.

So stretch your legs, learn about the history of science in Manchester, visit the Radisson hotel and hear from Emmeline Pankhurst with the wonders of AR, and maybe catch a rare Pokémon as well!