NoGhost/Studio Wayne McGregor
Augmented Reality
Images courtesy NoGhost/Studio Wayne McGregor

The project "Ēkhṓs" was developed as part of Digital Catapult’s 'Niantic Lightship accelerator programme'. It was a collaboration with internationally renowned choreographer Wayne McGregor and Emmy award-winning animation studio No Ghost, where I served as the lead developer.

Studio Wayne McGregor, known for their creative exploration at the intersection of movement and technology, challenged us to create a physical graffiti game experience using Niantic’s Lightship technology. The game was designed to encourage everyone to make, co-create, share, and interact with kinetic tags.

"While other conceptions of the metaverse recreate the body in a virtual setting, we are drawn to the possibilities of AR and its ability to create a digital extension of the body in physical space." - Studio Wayne McGregor

Ēkhṓs allows individual users to form collaborative entities that manifest above urban skylines, echoing the spirit of the 1970s social sculpture movement. With the help of AR technology, these kinetic sculptures, named 'Ēkhṓs.', can be mapped onto real-world locations.

Niantic’s Visual Positioning System (VPS) allowed us to manifest the Ēkhṓs around wayspots, similar to the Pokestops of Pokémon Go. These are real-world locations where Niantic supports the placement of AR content as part of its Lightship platform.

Participation in the Lightship beta program gave me access to the new remote authoring functionality, which greatly sped up development by allowing me to test the VPS experience end-to-end from my studio.

However, Niantic’s mapping solution didn't provide the way-finding functionality needed to guide users to our wayspots or the customisation required for the app's aesthetics. To resolve these issues, I created a custom Mapbox implementation linked to the Lightship API.

Once at a wayspot, users are encouraged to record expressive movements using their phone - and themselves. This movement is translated into a beautiful 'kinetic signature', complete with a unique soundtrack for each player, championing the idea of self-expression through movement.

The second component of the Ēkhṓs experience involves contributing to collective artworks that evolve based on contributions from various users. I facilitated this by implementing a connection to an AWS DynamoDB database to handle storing each user’s contribution and identity data.

In total, the project took about 3 months to reach a fully functional prototype and was showcased on 2 February 2023 at Digital Catapult’s offices in central London.