A spooky new venture for New West tech company

The team at TerraTap Technologies is used to working with museum and art gallery staff, but it wasn’t until the Virtual Stage theatre company reached out that the New West company really pushed the limits of its technology.

Until Halloween, folks can catch The Zombie Syndrome: Dead In The Water, a production by the Virtual Stage, taking place around Granville Island. The interactive show takes audiences into a world where complete annihilation is certain unless a small group of citizens can rescue a missing government operative and help him track down and stop a vampiric psychopath responsible for the sudden appearance of murderous zombie-vampire mutants.

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The Zombie Syndrome also stars neartuit, an app developed by New Westminster-based TerraTap Technologies. Neartuit is a content management system that uses iBeacons, an indoor GPS technology created by Apple, to send information to people with the app who are in range.

The system is an extension of the mobile work TerraTap has been doing for museums and attractions throughout the Lower Mainland, according to CEO Judy Hamilton.

“We saw a need for something more, and that’s why we created neartuit, which is a complete system (for clients). Rather than just providing a mobile app and handing it over to them, what we now have is a complete end-to-end solution that allows them to really create and manage the content and a free mobile app that their visitors use,” Hamilton told the Record.

The system was intended to be used by museums and art galleries (the company’s main clientele) but a connection at the Centre for Digital Media in Vancouver led Hamilton to Andy Thompson, artistic director for The Zombie Syndrome.

Hamilton was told Thompson was interested in “finding new technologies that could add another dimension to the show,” and she had just the thing.

“It was a perfect match,” she said. “He was really excited about the level of interaction that we could provide with the technology that we created.”

For The Zombie Syndrome,Hamilton and her team had custom iBeacons made so some could be manually activated by cast members when the time is right (sorry, folks we can’t give away too much of the mystery). This puts audience members in the thick of the action, Thompson said, forcing them to make decisions based on the information given by either the cast member or the neartuit app. Guests who use the app will receive clues, directions and information that is meant to help them rescue the missing government operative and, ultimately, save the world.

“(Thompson) literally created his story for each of the seven stops using our system. So he has completely used our system from end to end for this production,” Hamilton said.

This is the fifth year in a row the Virtual Stage has produced its zombie-themed theatre production for Halloween. Each year, Thompson and his team come up with a new narrative for the show, and this year, they polled fans on Facebook to see what mash-up they’d like to see. The overall winner was vampires. From that, Thompson created a production that mimics the old choose-your-own-adventure books featuring neartuit as a sidekick of sorts.

Before the production was up and running, Hamilton and her team were able to take part in a couple of the previews to see their technology in action. On opening night, which took place last week, the Terra
Tap crew was planning to return to the set to help with any last-minute technical issues that came up during the premiere.

The Zombie Syndrome runs nightly this month and wraps up with a special show on Halloween.

Shows start at 6:30 and run every 30 minutes until 8:30 p.m.

Come prepared for the elements, as the show runs rain or shine, and be sure to wear comfortable shoes. (Oh, and you’ll be going on a boat, too.)

For info or tickets, go to thevirtualstage.org/zombies.

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