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Human connections matter—now more than ever

In this unprecedented time of physical distancing, self-isolation and virtual gatherings, our desire to connect is stronger than ever. We yearn for the freedom to interact, share, explore and participate. While public spaces have always been key economic and cultural drivers, allowing our societies to gather and to interact, we’re now faced with a very important question: How might we safely use our shared environments to remain connected with each other, our cities, and our cultures?

Bringing the public back into public spaces

At Moment Factory, we are driven by a passion to bring people together through collective moments of wonder. While this new reality presents a variety of challenges and constraints, ranging from contactless interactions to physical distancing and crowd flow management, it also offers opportunities for creativity and innovation. Our team is imagining a new generation of digital campfires, from digital art exhibits and interactive games to immersive multimedia journeys and projection mapping. Moving forward, we’re looking back on some of our favorite projects to light the way.

Rethink public participation, on-site and online

As we try to counterbalance social isolation, we believe that participative experiences, whether online or in-person, will be central to keeping the collective spirit of our shared environments alive.

Megaphone, created in partnership with Montreal’s Quartier des Spectacles and the National Film Board, used voice recognition and projection mapping to bring a university’s façade to life with words sourced directly from the public. Similarly, we partnered with Canadian Tire at Toronto’s Union Station to create a 30-foot interactive Christmas tree. The installation responded in real-time to the social media messages of well wishers, engaging visitors both on-site and online by means of a webcam and micro-site.

Adopt a “reserve-your-moment” approach to crowd management

For experiences to succeed during this challenging time, managing the flow of people will be critical. Non-linear, interactive journeys pulse the flow of visitors, while timed-ticketing minimizes crowds and lineups.

For the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation, we created Kontinuum, an interactive journey in the heart of Ottawa that transformed the construction site of an underground train station. Over 9 weeks, the experience welcomed 320,000 visitors who were able to reserve a start time online for a small group. Once on-site, they could scan their ticket to enter the experience without physical contact or waiting lines.

Offer a new way to explore & discover culture

Our urban and natural landscapes offer a wealth of culture and stories just waiting to be revealed. Our tool kit of portable immersive technologies can be used to create new narrative experiences across a diverse array of parks and destinations, allowing visitors to safely explore in smaller groups.

For example, Illuminations: Human/Nature transformed Canada’s oldest and newest national parks—Banff National Park in Alberta and Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto—into narrative nighttime journeys. Visitors became active participants, using a portable multimedia kit that included speakers, projectors and lights, to explore the parks and discover stories in small groups of family and friends. Highly adaptable and transportable, this low-impact experiential format brings magic and storytelling to many different landscapes, while also providing technology that can be easily sterilised and recharged between uses.

Augment public spaces with connected technology

While we continue to physically distance in public spaces, citizens still crave the energy of a live event. Augmented reality makes it possible for visitors to safely engage in a community setting by using their phones.

For example, Skatemapp transformed a local skatepark competition in Montreal into an interactive experience during the local non-profit festival MAPP_MTL. Tracking, projection mapping and public participation made it possible for both the skateboarders and spectators to influence the experience in real-time. While projected graphics followed each skater to navigate the challenge, the public could use their cellphones to energize the track by sending emojis onto the course, voting for their favourite teams, or even selecting the next song. This ground-breaking urban activation not only pushed the limits of motion-detecting technology, it also engaged the public in a new kind of collective experience that offers endless possibilities for gathering while respecting social distancing guidelines.

Rediscovering and reviving our public spaces

With a global shift towards hyper-local tourism comes a growing need to explore the full cultural potential of our local public spaces and destinations, without having to rebuild the bricks and mortar. Multimedia experiences augment the existing fabric of our communities, offering a kaleidoscope of touristic and cultural storytelling opportunities that celebrate local identity and support local economies.

Together, let’s find new ways to reconnect in public space and share our stories, using our voices, our phones and our presence to reopen and revive our cities. We can harness the power of today’s technologies to create beautiful moments of celebration that are safe for everyone to enjoy. The limits of physical distancing don’t need to limit our collective imagination!