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HP Turns Downtown San Francisco into Virtual Gameboard


mscape technology showcased at industrial design conference

Hundreds of industrial designers attending the Connecting’07 conference in San Francisco this week are experiencing the HP mscape software platform as they roam through the city’s neighborhoods playing Defenders of Design, a customized and highly interactive location-based mobile game created especially for the conference.

mscape is a software suite that enables people to design, play and share “mediascapes” – location-based experiences, games and tours. Developed by HP Labs, the company’s central research facility, the technology has been used to recreate historical moments, bring a community’s stories to life and develop new ways of socializing, entertaining and learning.

Earlier this year, HP made the mscape authoring toolkit and mobile player software available via download from the community website,, at no cost for non-commercial use on specific iPAQ models and other compatible handheld devices. The toolkit allows people to associate physical locations with digital media, such as video, music, images and text.

Blending digital media with gaming, storytelling and the outdoors, mscape offers people of all ages a fun and interactive way to experience their surroundings. Equipped with a GPS-enabled HP iPAQ Travel Companion running the mscape player, participants move through the physical world, triggering digital media – including images, text, sounds and video – in response to physical events such as location, proximity, time and movement.

Defenders of Design was created by The GoGame, which produces and stages interactive participative team-building games for corporations and other groups. The group incorporated mscape’s location capabilities into the game, which supplies clues and other information that guide Connecting’07 participants to some of San Francisco’s premier design studios and through special missions that challenge their creativity.

“mscape is a great tool that opens new possibilities for the designers of our high-tech urban adventure,” said Finnegan Kelly, co-founder, The GoGame. “The mscape platform gives us the ability to integrate customized digital media that we can link to a specific location in our futuristic storyline. We can send fun facts about a design company just as players walk in the door of a studio, or a video containing an important clue before participants approach an undercover actor with a secret password.”

HP Labs offered the mscape platform to the public so consumers, gamers and designers could experience its capabilities and explore new uses for location-sensitive technologies. The mscape site hosts numerous ready-made mediascapes, which can be downloaded by anyone to use with a GPS-enabled HP iPAQ or other compatible handheld device running the Windows® Mobile operating system. The website provides everything people need to develop their own mediascapes, including training and tips to get started, and it encourages people to upload their mediascapes so others can enjoy them.

“mscape matches digital media with the physical world, providing an immersive and location-aware experience,” said Phil McKinney, vice president and chief technology officer, Personal Systems Group, HP. “Mobile devices will increasingly incorporate context and location awareness in the coming years, and mscape helps us better understand how associating digital media with physical locations can not only be fun and informative, but also useful in our personal and professional lives.”

HP Labs has been investigating the use of pervasive, context-aware services for several years. Earlier versions of its mscape technology have been used extensively by artists, media professionals, schoolchildren, educators and community groups to design and create their own mediascapes.

More recently, HP Labs has worked with creative media groups to build a range of experimental mediascapes, a number of which are now available to download. To date, there have been nearly 3,900 downloads of the mscape toolkit and close to 7,500 mediascapes downloaded.


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