Immersive Dickens

Augmented reality for your ears at the V&A

“How might you bring a ‘difficult’ museum object to life to encourage teenagers to pursue their own creative endeavours?”

A Different kind of Audio Tour

At the V&A, a regular audio tour gets suddenly hijack by Charles Dickens himself, bringing the students away from the tour and onto a parallel world…

Augmented Reality For Your Ears

Think of the result as “augmented reality for your ears”. Imagine putting headphones on and listening to a parallel world: Charles Dickens whispering into your ear, footsteps coming closer, Big Ben chiming in the background… Stepping into a Victorian world as you walk around…

Localised Soundscape

Our vision was to have a truly localised soundscape – by moving away from a source the sound fades or if the sound is located on your left you will only hear it from your left ear. You experience the sound as if you had truly stepped into that environment.

The Technology

As with many research projects we were not even sure that what we had in mind was completely feasible! The ambition was to do a very precise tracking of visitors in real-time in a room and transport them into a virtual world through sound. When the decision was made to focus on sound, the audio guide was an obvious way to explain why visitors had to put the headphones on and carry the mobile devices that enabled the tracking with them. From a narrative perspective, it also allowed us to start with a familiar technological experience of the audio guide to then subvert the experience and transport the listener to another world.

Technically speaking, the two main parts of this project are the tracking technology and the virtual sound environment.

Immersive Dickens was a prototype of a theatrical experience and an immersive audio tour bringing Charles Dickens to life for 14-17-year-olds.
It was created by the V&A, Punchdrunk and The Workers and performed at the V&A in October 2018.

Further Reading:

Interview with the Workers about Immersive Dickens
Turning a manuscript into an immersive theatre experience
‘Dangerously immersive’ Dickens