Birmingham Music Archive – Prototype Audio Tourguide App

Introduction

This work was a collaboration with Jez Collins who runs the Birmingham Music Archive (BMA).  The project was to investigate whether it would be possible to build an Audio Tour guide based around the music heritage of Birmingham.

Birmingham Music Archive is an online resource that celebrates, preserves and shares Birmingham’s rich Music Heritage.  Content includes photographs, ticket stubs, audio clips, videos, stories etc as described here:

We believe music provides us with memories, individual and shared experiences and self expression. For us, these memories and meaning can be stirred by a vast array of music ephemera, it could be a song, it might be a photograph or a ticket stub or it could be someone else’s recollections that make a connection with you and trigger your music experiences. And we aren’t just interested in the ‘star’ names. We want to hear about ALL the music activity in the city.”

It is envisioned that a mobile application could extend the site, allowing users to upload content and create their own audio tours.  As part of this process, we wanted to curate a test audio tour from the existing content.  Either this would be based around a single band or it would be around a particular location.  The second option was chosen as it would allow a tour to be generated around the city centre.

Content

BMA-MapIt was decided that an audio tour of around 30-40 minutes would be plenty for a prototype.  For this 7 locations around the city centre were selected.  For each location a number of images (typically 5-7) were selected that showed the venue in it’s heyday, bands who played there, ticket stubs etc.  In addition a short piece of audio dialogue (1-3 minutes) describing the venue and its history was written and recorded.  These histories were developed from the user submitted stories on the BMA website.

Development

BMA-App

The prototype was developed using AppFurnace by Calvium Ltd.  AppFurnace is an online platform – which is build on top of PhoneGap technology.  It allows users to rapidly develop applications which run on both iOS and Android platforms.  Calvium have used AppFurnace to successfully develop a number of existing AudioTour style applications.

One of the main benefits of the system is that development is entirely online via their website and the have a player for both Android and iOS which allow you to rapidly prototype the application.

Despite Birmingham having free wifi in the city centre It was decided that this application should function entirely offline.  Hence, some work was completed to experiment with audio and image quality to ensure a minimal application filesize.

Testing the prototype in-situ worked extremely well.  The content is so much more meaningful is when in situated in the real location.  For example, using photos of locations it is possible to recreate Bob Marley heading backstage at The Odeon.  It really brought to life an otherwise unexciting alleyway.

There is plenty of content already to form the basis of a 40 minute to 1 hour audio tour around Birmingham’s City Centre.  It would be possible to create tour extensions – for music fans who would want to go off and explore Digbeth.

Category: My Projects

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