Cannes Lions


FINCH, Sydney / GOOGLE / 2016

Case Film






The real, and the magical, are merged through the mask of hidden technology. A user is brought into this magical world where they explore a large, real space; interact with fictional characters and act as the hero in their own personal quest. The experience uses technology to provide navigation assistance, branching conversations with fictional characters, hand-gesture recognition, and large-scale user story management to coordinate physical space allocation. The exact experience can be designed to suit varied stories composed of these elements.

As an example of the experience, a nature park was converted to a magical land. A child is given a magical wand that navigates them between magical trees. The child has two-way conversations with trapped fairies and is taught spells to free them. These acquired spells are then used to overthrow an evil goblin overlord who was plotting to rule the world.


A user interaction device (the Wand) provides navigation assistance via inbuilt LEDs, compass and GPS. It has an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) and proprietary hand-gesture recognition system to detect when varied ‘spells’ are cast. An onboard microprocessor controls the peripheral systems via the UART and SPI protocols on a custom board.

Story locations contain embedded Android phones and effects-technology (lighting, speakers, etc). Wand proximity is detected through BLE communication and GPS positioning for redundancy. Wand information and commands are sent via BLE, and are updated across the whole experience via the Google Cloud Platform, using a NodeJS, MongoDB and Angular technology stack.

Users interact with the phone by speech and gesture -- Text-To-Speech and Google’s Speech-To-Text (OK Google) technologies allow dynamic conversations between them and the virtual characters.

At the end of the conversation, the Wand is told the GPS coordinates of the next node, and starts navigating again.


In the long term, this technology could engage guests of theme parks, with themed stories or it could work as a consumer product by packaging up a wand and an app, and serve custom quests for children and adults alike.

Swirl is designed to be scalable for these situations, catering for single users in a backyard to hundreds or thousands of users in a theme park, with unlimited concurrent systems being able to run in different locations around the world.

This is a new storytelling platform that brings physical space back into user-engagement. It has successfully tested the prototype phase in a nature park setting with in-house manufactured electronics, and has ambitions for mass-production. The project has received three phases of investment from Google, but is aiming for the world.

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