Sir John Monash Centre
- Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs
The Sir John Monash Centre, located on the grounds of the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery in northern France, tells Australia’s story of the Western Front through a series of interactive installations and immersive experiences. Transpire created an all-encompassing digital solution, comprising mobile apps, multimedia servers, and a network of Bluetooth beacons.
With SJMC located over 16,000 kilometres from Transpire’s office in Melbourne, the UX/design team needed a unique approach to testing and validating their ideas. This was made more difficult by the fact visitors would behave differently depending on whether they walking around the grounds outside SJMC or interacting with the immersive installations inside.
Transpire overcame these obstacles by carrying out tests in custom-built environments based on SJMC. For example, geofencing and other tech solutions were set-up at a nearby park to replicate Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, while a small-scale version of the SJMC exhibition space was created inside the Transpire office.
Throughout the project, Transpire had to pivot on design or go back to the drawing board with certain ideas. While the team knew this would take time away from what they were responsible for delivering, it ultimately led to a much better experience. The more Transpire questioned what was happening, the more SJMC benefited from human-centred design thinking.
For Transpire, collaboration between the product owner, external users, and third-party vendors was paramount in the success of SJMC. To begin with, the project was simply a collection of ideas from multiple stakeholders. But by opening up the design process, Transpire was able to establish a cohesive framework, empower individuals to contribute their own expertise, and produce an intuitive multimedia experience.
The user experience had to feature a ‘universal design’ and be accessible to as many people as possible. Central to this was translating the app’s English content into French and German for a truly localised experience.
It was a continual process of improving words and terms within the app, implementing labels than would make sense to the user, and making the SJMC journey more universally accessible.
However, translating the app from English to French and German had a knock-on effect for the layout and design. This called for the help of native speakers, who could suggest more authentic terminology and language rather than literal translations.
Transpire also requested assistance from both the French and German embassies to identify suitable users for testing the app, and to walk through the experience alongside designers for last-minute feedback.
Transpire’s multimedia solution for SJMC needed to distribute and deploy content, which was designed and produced in Australia and New Zealand, across multiples systems in France. Due to the centre’s complex environment, comprising 450 screens of various sizes, configurations, and operating systems, it also had to be quick and reliable when delivered via the cloud.
After discovering that commercially available solutions had limitations or restrictions, Transpire created its own integrated multimedia solution to coordinate and communicate with every piece of technology in the centre. From the show controller to the building management system, Transpire pulled every thread together into one coherent solution.
In order for visitors to access SJMC’s multimedia content, Transpire developed both iOS and Android apps, which would proactively cache content, cue up relevant multimedia, and provide a link between user smartphones and the centre’s screens.
As visitors move through the centre, over 150 Bluetooth beacons determine their location, prompting a multimedia server to establish a connection between the app, the content, and the screens.
For the Bluetooth beacons, Transpire engineered custom-made antennae to isolate, amplify, and shape the radio frequency, decrease signal leakage, and improve accuracy to each visitor’s smartphone.
A complex, layered positioning algorithm was developed to help deal with the unique challenges of SJMC’s physical environment. When visitors move around the centre, the app will continually refresh a list of what content is available nearby and allow them to dictate their own experience.