Bringing Sherlock Holmes and Isaac Newton to life

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Oct 28, 2014 01:14 IST

The next time you pass by the Sherlock Holmes statue on Baker Street, or a statue of Isaac Newton or Queen Victoria in London, chances are they will come alive and the characters speak to you directly with some humour and drama about themselves.

Animating 35 statues in London and Manchester is part of a new project called ‘Talking Statues’ that seeks to breathe new life into statues and public spaces.

The use of location technology means that when you pass a statue, you can swipe your phone on a nearby tag and your phone rings, and it’s Sherlock Holmes or Issac Newton on the line. People can access the monologues through QR codes and short URLs. This means that anyone with a smartphone can listen in.

Arts organisation Sing London has commissioned some of Britain’s most celebrated writers and actors to animate the 35 public statues.

The project also sets out to explore how Near Field Communication (NFC) has the potential to overcome barriers to culture and the arts by animating public spaces and forging cultural links to engage audiences.

For example, a statue of Samuel Johnson might link the user to the British Library’s copy of Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language.

NFC’s potential also lies in its ease of use. Unlike QR codes (which require users to download a reader then scan a 2D barcode), NFC enables content to be streamed directly from the web via a wireless network (3G, 4G, Wi-Fi), a release from the University of Leicester said.

Aiming to reach 100,000 users, it is a collaborative project between Sing London, Antenna International and the university’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG).

Jocelyn Dodd, director of RCMG, said, “We are undertaking the research element of this project. Our research will examine how people engage with and experience
‘Talking Statues’? To what extent does ‘Talking Statues’ and its use of NFC enhance cultural encounters?

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