This is a beta version of Ghosts of Solid Air.
This is a story that you experience using a smartphone, on location in central London.
You have to download an app onto your phone from the app store.
Once you have it installed, check that the locations are free (they sometimes have events that would get in your way and stop you from being able to find the ghosts), charge your phone, grab your headphones – and go to Trafalgar Square. Walk into the middle of the square, and press start.
This experience needs two kinds of software to work: AR Core and, if using Android, operating system version 13.
The app is only available for particular phones because of the software that brings the ghost world to life. This is Android operating system v 13 and AR Core. The Google Play Store will not give you access to the app if you do not have Android version 13.
Even if your phone has both these things, particular models may still struggle. “Compatible with” is not always the same as “runs well on”.
This could mean that the visuals look more jerky, the microphone doesn’t pick up your voice very well – or it doesn’t know where the ghosts should appear.
If you are wearing headphones – be aware of where their microphone is and if this is picking up your voice when you speak.
Augmented reality is a new technological tool – and so we are all in the middle of an experimental process, exploring how it works best. If you discover that your phone is on the list but it still doesn’t work very well – let us know!
The experience is a little over an hour long. You can take your time and explore certain moments at your own speed, which will influence the overall duration of the experience.
Trafalgar Square is a vibrant and busy location, there is often something going on and, sometimes, events take over the whole square. Before you travel, check online for any events taking place in the square or in the other locations (Horse Guards Parade and Parliament Square). We have found these websites to be the most reliable, but they may not be totally exhaustive
You can start the journey at almost any time during daylight hours.
Depending on the time of year – you should not start when it’s just about to get dark. The second chapter takes place in Horse Guards Parade which is a large poorly lit space.
Low light is OK – darkness is not.
When it gets dark, in areas without good street lights, the phone will struggle to locate itself as it relies on the camera to do this.
The ghost world of Trafalgar Square looks great in the dusky evening light though – and the ghost world is much more spooky and atmospheric when you’re not in the direct sun!
You will start in Trafalgar Square and end up in Parliament Square. The locations that you will travel through have little to no shelter, so make sure you are dressed for the weather.
You can pause the experience and then play again immediately – or you can quit the app to have a break or to return at another time.
If you do pause – you need to stay in the same physical location, as the app relies on GPS to play the right thing at the right time.
If you quit completely – you cannot resume the story from exactly where you stopped, you have to go back to the beginning of the chapter. In Trafalgar Square, this means starting from the beginning – so stand near the fountains. In Horse Guards Parade, this means starting back by the wall covered in ivy (by the Admiralty Citadel). In Parliament Square, this means standing in the north-west corner.
You need to be in the right physical location to begin the chapter – it will not work otherwise.
We advise setting your phone to “Do Not Disturb”.
If you can’t do this – or you forget – your phone will ring and, if you pick up the phone, the experience should pause. You have to actually answer the phone for it to pause.
Unfortunately we are unable to rent or lend phones to be able to take part. But you could ask a friend or a relative with a phone from the list to come and do the experience with you?
The experience was designed for one person to do on their own phone – but you could try using a headphone splitter if you are sharing!
The app is currently available in English. There are some bits of audio that are not in English, but you are not meant to decipher them.
The connection to the ghost world is glitchy and unstable – you won’t be able to see them all the time!
But if it feels more than a little unstable, it could be a few different things – the phone could be struggling to locate itself.
Try moving to a better-lit area with a nice even floor. If that doesn’t help you might not have enough signal, or it could just be your phone struggling with augmented reality.
If you are 14+, and you are interested in stories of resistance and the legacies of colonialism, we made this story for you.
This piece deals with histories of the British empire and contemporary politics. You will hear about racism, enslavement, forced displacement, police brutality, Grenfell and the Aids crisis. Audience discretion is advised.