The Rose Theatre Trust (The Trust) was formed in 1989 during the archaeological excavation of the site of the Elizabethan Rose Playhouse on Bankside to ensure the new theatre proposed for the site would preserve as much of the fabric of Philip Henslowe’s playhouse, which was built in the late 1500s.
Since then, The Trust has devoted itself to preparing to excavate the complete site. The Trust’s “The Rose Revealed” project will re-excavate archaeological remains, preserve them, and place them on display in a bespoke visitor centre as part of an immersive experience, to be completed in three years’ time. This immersive experiences has many elements, including a virtual reconstruction of the Rose Theatre and its Bankside surroundings. Next, the Trust wanted to design an immersive aural experience.
The concept behind the “Rose Theatre Sonic Walk”, according to Dr Roger Clegg, who worked on the virtual reconstruction, is to enable people to retrace the journeys of playgoers who travelled across the Thames by boat or over old London Bridge and through Southwark on foot to see a performance at the Rose.
The recreated sounds will pull visitors from the surrounding area towards the site of the archaeological remains by inviting them to consider themselves playgoers travelling to the theatre in the late sixteenth century.
Together, the sonic walk and the archaeological remains exhibition will enable the Trust to capitalise on the history of the area and to be leaders in providing visitors to Bankside with a uniquely holistic, immersive and accessible experience.
The Rose Theatre Trust started working with SBI's ACE IT (Accelerating the Creative Economy Through Immersive Technologies) team in May 2021 to help it refine its sound app concept.
Initial consultations with the SBI team led to a half-day collaborative meeting, where academics and those experienced in bringing history to life for the public spent a productive morning with the team from ACE IT, discussing how to design the sound walk app.
The event was split into segments. According to Clegg, these allowed for “fruitful, productive and illuminating discussion on a range of issues, including mapping user personas and needs”.
The morning also addressed the user journey, including app discovery and touch points, onboarding, usability and accessibility, the opportunity for the addition of augmented reality (AR) technology and next steps for the development of a minimal viable product (MVP), essentially a software app fleshed out with enough features to be able to gather feedback for development.
Martin Monov, a member of the SBI team involved in the project with the Trust, says the organisation of a sprint session allowed multiple stakeholders to participate and discuss the future of the app. “The result was being able to establish a clear roadmap, where different avenues of funding and longevity of the product were identified,” he says.
LSBU academic and ACE IT expert, Nadia Aziz designed and led the half-day “design thinking” workshop, to focus on personas and their journeys and what possible experiences might they expect from the sonic app.
“We were able to point out key questions towards a product strategy for augmented reality and sound experience. Initial concepts have been proposed that will help the trust to develop prototypes and also dive into some of the strategic challenges to be better prepared for fundraising,” says Aziz.
ACE IT took the discussions and produced a report summarising the key themes and ideas that emerged for each segment, along with additional information on the next steps for the Trust to develop the app. These included:
As a result, The Trust has been able to focus its ideas and achieved better clarity in the design of the MVP and to put in place the next steps towards developing it ready for consumer testing.
This, in part, relied on introducing Clegg and the team at The Rose Theatre Trust to similar projects in the field of augmented reality (AR), as well as outlining some low-cost digital toolkits they could use to prototype their ideas, which Adam Parkinson (ACE IT) was able to do. He says: “I had a great experience working with The Rose Theatre Trust. Their planned project is close to some of my research interests and working on this also pushed me to do further research into the world of mobile AR experiences.”
One of the challenges was the lack of funding, which meant relying on the generosity of interested parties to offer help and advice to support the app’s early concept design to get it to a stage, where funding sources can be sought. “In this respect, that ACE IT is fully funded has been invaluable,” said Clegg.
The sessions and subsequent reports were also crucial in helping The Trust to clarify who users or target audience, of the app might be.
Clegg says: “The collaboration with ACE IT has been invaluable in offering The Trust an understanding of the journey it needs to take to develop the app from experts who understood the aim and were able to offer key insights and frank advice.”
If you need support developing an immersive tech product, applications to our ACE IT programme are now open. Find out more at www.immersivetech.co.uk
“The collaboration with ACE IT has been invaluable in offering the Trust an understanding of the journey it needs to take to develop the app from experts who understood the aim and were able to offer key insights and frank advice.”