Walk at the speed of light with new mobile app for Sheffield

A new mobile app will give people in Sheffield the chance to explore the Solar System without even leaving the city.

The solar graphic from the appSolar: Walking at the Speed of Light is an interactive app released 8 March conceived by Sheffield Hallam University’s Walking Arts Research Group which combines exclusive conceptual art with the chance to explore the city and the nearby Peak District.

The app uses GPS technology to ‘unlock’ the Sun and the eight planets of the Solar System when the user travels between the planets which stretch out from the town hall (the location of the Sun), all the way out to Low Barn in the Hope Valley – where you can find Neptune.

When users arrive at the location of each planet, they will unlock a unique piece of conceptual artwork inspired by that planet, designed by artists from Hallam’s Sheffield Institute of Arts (SIA).

Annie Watson, principal lecturer in media arts and Solar project lead said: “We developed the idea of this project as part of the University’s Catalyst Festival of Creativity – combining our interests of the arts and also walking and exploring the city around us.

“We worked with Opus to develop the interactive app which initially shows the Solar System with only whited-out planets. As you walk around away from the Sun, in the city centre, the planets will become colourful and some fantastic artwork, either videos or galleries inspired by those planets, will become unlocked on the users phone for them to enjoy as they pass certain points on the route.

“The walk is to scale of the Solar System and the speed of light. So you can walk quite quickly from the Sun to Earth, which is at the bottom of The Moor, in about ten minutes. Mars is a little further, on Ecclesall Road, and from there the distances grow quite significantly!

“Neptune, the furthest planet from the Sun, takes several hours to walk to, but it can be done is separate parts until you’ve unlocked all the artwork.

“We are hoping to speak to universities in Europe and beyond about working with them to develop their own version Solar which would be an exciting long-term legacy of the project and Catalyst.”

Joe Kriss, Opus project manager, said: “This is our first app, and we’ve been really excited about working with Annie and the walking group at Hallam. It’s a unique mix of art, video, education, technology and health – urging users to get out and explore Sheffield and the countryside just outside of the centre.

“The app uses GPS to direct the user to the location of the next planet, while also providing information on the journey and the artworks inspired by the Solar System.

“What I like most about Solar is that not only does it showcase original artwork from within the city, but it also allows you to discover Sheffield’s unique landscapes in a fun and interactive way.”

A public exhibition featuring all the artwork will be on display from 14 March until 23 April at SIA’s gallery in the Cantor Building, Arundel Street.

The app is available by searching ‘Solar Sheffield’ on iOS and Android. The Catalyst Festival of Creativity, which is part of Sheffield’s wider Year of Making, has featured more than 30 different creative projects over the past year.