Urban Screens Manchester: MegaPhone from Bren O'Callaghan on Vimeo.

MegaPhone

MegaPhone is a means of using your mobile phone to participate in a live, multi-player collaborative gaming platform for big screens in public spaces. Users see a phone number displayed on the screen, call it, and use their button presses and voice to control an interactive experience on the screen, “turning pedestrians into players”.

During Urban Screens Manchester it appeared on a specially constructed giant LED screen in All Saints Gardens, within the central city university campus and visible from the Oxford Road corridor – the busiest bus route in Europe.

MegaPhone is not a downloadable application that runs on your phone, and is not a wireless network, like Wifi or Bluetooth. There’s nothing to install, so it works on any phone, on any carrier, in any country. There are two ways to send input to the display: keypad and voice. The keypad can be used much like a video game controller, and the volume and pitch of the phone’s microphone can also become input in the game.

During the UK premiere, callers were able to control 8-bit style animated sprites and identify their character from the last four digits of their phone number – allowing recognition yet retaining anonymity. Simple key press controlled directional movement (up, down, left, right), with additional voice command: “Fire!” The simple graphics made for a more accessible and audience-friendly experience.

The first version of MegaPhone, called Megaphone 3000, was two player, and was introduced at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) Fall 2006 show by Jury Hahn and Chris Kairalla. The second version was multiplayer, and was launched at the Spring 2007 ITP show as Jury Hahn’s Master’s Thesis.

In 2007, the commercial version of MegaPhone was launched by Jury Hahn and Dan Albritton, and has since been powering out of home games for a variety of clients all over the world. In 2008, MegaPhone launched its most powerful platform, “Stadium Games,” with games for up to 2,500 simultaneous players.

Significantly, MegaPhone also has trans-national possibilities, in that phones from any service provider in any country can be used. Hahn and Albritton emphasise the possibilities for the global networking of screens and opening up potential cross-cultural public spheres.

The event formed part of Urban Screens Manchester, a conference and festival exploring creative use and non-commercial content in programming an increasing proliferation of urban screens and projection-based installations. Curated by Susanne Jaschko with a four-day art and event programme produced by Bren O’Callaghan and Marie Sleigh in partnership with Cornerhouse, the BBCand Manchester City Council.

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