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The Qatar National Library

Creating an immersive real-time wireless audio application, empowering visitors to discover a media rich national collection of ancient texts & documents and modern day literature.

Recursive were commissioned by Astad to create a dynamic, automated, ‘hands-free’ audio tour system for The Qatar National Library in Doha to deliver real-time audio services based on the exact location of the user within the building. Allowing visitors to listen to each exhibit, video wall, and interactive installation through headphones so as not to disturb other users.

An important feature of the brief was the need to deliver this audio in real-time, using the existing Wi-Fi network in place within the building. This was particularly relevant due to the need to support live presentations within the auditorium and special events space, alongside multiple language support, interfacing directly with the real time interpretation system.

An additional requirement for the system was that this should be delivered in a hands free way with no user intervention required. This last requirement meant there was a need to carry out indoor tracking of the individual users to automatically determine their exact location and then use this to decide the exact moment to switch audio channels, cross-fading the audio, to ensure they always receive the correct audio for the exhibit or space in which they are in.

To transmit audio from exhibit to audio device, Recursive proposed the use of an audio over Wi-Fi device that would allow audio to be streamed over the wireless network directly to each mobile device.

In order to track the position of people throughout the building, Recursive developed bespoke directional iBeacon devices, especially for the project. Standard beacons are omnidirectional meaning that the RF signal is propagated in all directions equally. This approach does not work well when multiple beacons are required in close proximity, as was the case in the library with multiple exhibits often less than 2m apart.

An enterprise iOS application was developed to detect the iBeacon positions, calculate which exhibit or area the user was within, and deliver the corresponding audio channel to them.

A custom Content Management System (CMS) runs in the cloud and manages all devices and beacon settings, allowing real time diagnostics and changes across the site.