augmented reality soundscape app for train travellers

INSIDE OUTSIDE is an augmented reality soundscape app for train travellers. Using headphones, this site-specific smartphone app enables the passenger to listen to the sounds of the landscape through which they are passing. The sounds themselves originate from recordings that have been made in the corresponding region over an extended period. Via GPS-tracking and the current orientation of the smartphone, a binaural soundscape is provided for each passenger according to his or her seating position and the current point of view in realtime. The project has been implemented on the route of the „Berkaer Bahn“ from Weimar to Bad Berka in Thuringia (Germany).

„The railway kills space“ – these words were stated by the German writer Heinrich Heine in 1843. Nowadays, the landscape as it is seen from inside a train is nothing more than a fleeting, passing picture that we perceive in the corner of our eyes. The aim is to enable an opening of perception by the use of those very media which otherwise often isolate ourselves even more from our surroundings.

The journey begins at Weimar central station. Equipped with smartphone and headphones, the passengers enter the small train which is heading towards the backcountry of Weimar. The train pulls out. Via headphones, the sounds of the current townscape become audible: The central station, parking lots, a car wash, vacant spaces, housing complexes. Although the travelers usually regard these surroundings as a detached image, in this case their travel-capsule is opening up. The landscape can be experienced as a dynamic habitat. Fragments of dialogues and narratives of the local inhabitants pass by and interweave into a composed net of conversations which correlates with an outer reality as well as with a subjective travel-perception. During the 25 minutes of the journey, the passengers pass through different landscape zones: Fields, forests, rivers, villages, industrial areas, the highway. INSIDE OUTSIDE provides an interface that makes the real surroundings audible – and at the same time offers a soundscape composition which is traversable from both sides and where the landscape which is passing by becomes a formative structure. For every traveler, connections between the actually visible and the simultaneously hearable are generated: could this be the garden of the old lady, whose voice is being heard? Was the bike which was heard just now once cycling through that alley over there? The acoustic opening of the surroundings at the same time is a time capsule, that gives access to the past. In the visible landscape, the traces of different layers of time become legible: those from the immediate sonic past – and those from the deeper layers which are engraved in the collective memory of the inhabitants alongside the railway line.

INSIDE OUTSIDE was developed as a fully functional prototype.

Alexander Pospischil and Ludwig Berger

Implementation, Programming and Sounddesign:
Alexander Pospischil

Alexander Pospischil and Ludwig Berger

App Design:
Verena Kalser, Elisabeth Pichler, Alexander Pospischil

Kindly supported by:

This project has been realized as my Thesis-Project at the Studio for Electroacoustic Music (SEAM) Weimar.