Mary Rose Museum and Picture This Productions launch Augmented Reality detective game | The Mary Rose
Mary Rose Museum and Picture This Productions launch Augmented Reality detective game
Time Detectives: The Mystery of the Mary Rose

In the run up to the 40th anniversary of Henry VIII’s favourite warship being raised from the sea off the coast of Portsmouth, the Mary Rose Museum and UK-based film and immersive production company, Picture This Productions, in collaboration with Royal Holloway, University of London, are launching the first ever multi-sensory Augmented Reality game. Time Detectives: The Mystery of the Mary Rose immerses players in the sights, sounds and smells of life on board the Mary Rose almost 500 years ago.

Created by Picture This Productions’ director Charlotte Mikkelborg, in consultation with the Mary Rose’s Head of Research, Dr Alex Hildred, and expert in multisensory history Dr Hannah Platts (Royal Holloway, University of London), the game turns players into Time Detectives, investigating the sinking of the Mary Rose on 19th July 1545, which claimed the lives of almost all the 500 soldiers and sailors on board. Using a mobile phone as a magical spyglass to reveal secrets from the past, players follow a trail based on their chosen character, collecting and interrogating clues to solve the mystery and complete their mission for the king. 

When using the app in the Mary Rose Museum, visitors are given backpacks containing an innovative scent device developed by experts in multisensory technology at Owidgets. These automatically trigger scent at key moments in the evolving story. For example, when players are asked to fire the cannon, they quite literally smell the gunpowder. 

Charlotte said: “At Picture This, we specialise in multisensory experiences. We have created multisensory virtual reality and immersive installations like ‘Fly’ for British Airway’s centenary. But this is a world first in terms of being multisensory augmented reality. Players of Time Detectives: The Mystery of the Mary Rose use their phones to step back in time 500 years to meet the crew in augmented reality, while scent will further immerse them in the story of the sinking as it unfolds.” 

In collaborating to develop the historical multisensory features of the game, Dr Hannah Platts, of Royal Holloway, University of London commented: “Smell is intriguing. Smell encourages us to develop memories and has a very strong role in how we engage with our surroundings. When combined with other senses of sound and sight, together they give audiences the chance to experience the past from different perspectives, allowing visitors to connect with the diverse voices that make up our vibrant history and heritage.” 

Dr Alex Hildred, Head of Research at the Mary Rose, said: “This game engages people in a completely new way with our collection – they become part of the story.  Transported back in time, eavesdropping into conversations and interactions between key members of the crew, they gather information - ‘clues’ - to enable them to present their case. This requirement makes them use the collection in a completely novel way and to think critically about historical sources. This roller-coaster journey through history is a one-of-a-kind experience within the museum, but can also be used as an engaging learning tool at home or in the class-room.”

Tudor Time Detectives - Using The App

The game’s innovations include photorealistic 3D characters created by enhancing the Trust’s forensic reconstructions of some of the crew.

The aim is to provide families with a fun day out but also, importantly, to inspire young people with diverse characters and stories from history. When many people think of Tudor England, they think of a society in which 99% of people were white, but in fact this was not the case”, explains Mikkelborg. ‘The Mary Rose team has worked hard to highlight this and discovered that up to a third of the crew came from outside what is now the British Isles… including North Africa, Spain, Italy and Belgium. For example, 17-year-old Henry in our narrative is based on a real character.  Although we do not know his actual name, the Mary Rose Trust has his skeleton and has deduced his approximate age, height, physical characteristics and lineage.  For example, we know that he had North African parents.”

Zoe Colbeck, Commercial Operations Director at The Mary Rose Museum, said: “The Mary Rose leads the way in the museum world for telling its stories, using new technologies to enhance the visitor experience and making it as immersive as possible. It has been exciting to look at the possible reasons why the Mary Rose sank and work with Picture This to create this incredible app to bring the story to life in such a creative way.”

The project was generously supported by one of Innovate UK’s Smart Grants,

Time Detectives: The Mystery of the Mary Rose is the first in a series of multisensory Augmented Reality games from Picture This Productions, bringing history to life at key cultural heritage sites across the UK and overseas.

Previous work from Picture This includes the multiple award-winning interactive VR experience ‘Fly’ created for British Airway’s centenary. This had a sell-out run in London’s Saatchi Gallery and was awarded Best Immersive Experience UK 2020 by the UK government.

At £4.99, Time Detectives will be available at the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and will also be available for remote play on iOS App Store and Google Play Store.

Download the app today!