Sherwood Rise – the Augmented Book

Sherwood Rise is the world’s first augmented novel. It’s an Augmented Reality (AR) transmedia interactive graphic novel/ game, told over 4 days through a range of media and formats: printed newspapers, AR on mobile phones, emails, hacker websites, blogs, sound, music, graphic novels and illustrations.

Inspired by the 2008 financial crisis, and the Occupy movement, the story (written by Dave Moorhead) is based on the traditional Robin Hood tale. The traditional tale of peasant revolt and dissent is brought up to date, and adapted for AR and transmedia. In our adaptation, austerity is imposed on the poor by a privileged elite, but resisted by a gang of hacker outlaw terrorists called the ‘Merry Men’.

Each day you receive a newspaper (via email) which you interact with via AR. Your interaction (how much you support the establishment or the Merry Men) updates a database, which then determines the version of newspaper you receive the next day. My intention was to make a physical book interactive, and in this way explore the future of the book.

The project explores the future of the book and transmedia storytelling:

  • It’s a story told in a range of media on multiple platforms
  • It expands a traditional printed story, adds additional layers of story through AR
  • It adds augmented digital artefacts onto a printed story.

The objectives of the project are:

  • To add virtual elements to the real world page by combining mobile device/ new media technology and the book
  • To use mobile device based AR and transmedia, in novel and artistic ways to expand a narrative
  • In creative and artistic ways to raise awareness and stimulate thought about financial fraud, corruption, austerity, politics
  • To produce a book which is part static and part dynamic, and altered by the reader’s behaviour
  • To challenge power relations of news using AR.

My research interests for this project included:

  • AR activism, challenging authority, privilege and power
  • The politics of AR and storytelling/ news, contested content, critiquing ways that news is reported, revealing the “truth”
  • Aesthetic, artistic, cultural and sociopolitical uses of AR and transmedia stories
  • Revealing hidden stories within a fiction
  • Many voices in a story – simultaneous multiple viewpoints
  • Documenting the process and experience of designing, adapting and building a transmedia story from the ground up
  • The reader experience – reading and navigating an AR transmedia book, moving from paper to screen, the disjointed reading experience
  • Exploring aesthetic possibilities of AR, graphic novels and illustrations on mobile devices.

Sherwood Rise – the story begins here

Research Project

This was a research collaboration between Dave Miller (concept, code and drawings) and Dave Moorhead (screenwriter). This was a post-doc research project funded by the University of Bedfordshire, as part of the UNESCO Future of the Book project, between dates 2012-13.

Article in Convergence journal

“Crossing media boundaries – Adaptations and new media forms of the book”

Update – AR software discontinued

I used AR software called Junaio for this project. It was free, and allowed me to create overlays in PHP, HTML and javascript. It was such a good product, that in Dec 2015 the company was bought out by Apple, who then discontinued it. I can get it working again, but I am still looking for another free AR alternative, and probably Wikitude on Unity is the answer.