News & Views

Critical Mass land mine simulation returns to New York

by Contagious I/O

In 2014, digital experience design agency Critical Mass launched a groundbreaking exhibition to raise awareness of land mines, still an everyday threat to millions of people around the globe.

The exhibition, previously shown at the New Museum, returns to New York City one year later as part of Now / Next / Why, Contagious' annual strategic briefing event for brands and agencies. Critical Mass chief creative officer Conor Brady will talk about the technological insight that brought the Sweeper project to life, and how CM is working with UNMAS to continue making the danger of land mines an issue relevant to everybody.

Now / Next / Why takes place the the New York Academy of Sciences on 6 May 2015. For information and tickets, go to or email

Read Contagious I/O's take on the 'More Than Mines' exhibition, originally published on 3 April 2014:

In recognition of the United Nations' International Day of Mine Awareness, the New Museum in New York City is hosting a temporary exhibit to let visitors experience the danger of land mines. The exhibit is powered by the Sweeper mobile app, which uses low-energy Bluetooth beacon technology to simulate a virtual minefield.

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), which is trained to manage explosive hazards and reduce the threat of land mines, collaborated with Critical Mass and photographer Marco Grob on the event.

Visitors need to download the app (available on iOS and Android) to their phones and plug in their headphones. As they walk around the exhibit, Sweeper detects transmitters hidden throughout it. When a visitor comes too close to a transmitter, it acts as a landmine and detonates. Sounds of explosions are blasted into the user’s headphone, followed by a story of a victim’s actual experience. Once the shell shock has subsided, users are invited to make a $5 donation to the UN.

The exhibit is open to the public for one day only: 4 April 2014.

Results / The agency reported: ‘The Sweeper campaign earned over 10,000 tweets, 150 million digital impressions (which is approximately worth $2,250,000 in media), a 250% increase in traffic to the UNMAS website and 10% of participants donating after visiting the event.’


Beacons come of age / We’ve seen several examples of low-energy beacon technology before. Notably, the Rubens Museum in Antwerp used beacons to enhance the visitor experience, tailoring tours by age ranges. However, Sweeper brings a level of emotional engagement to the technology – and shows the potential for close-proximity detection and messaging to go mainstream.

Experience over function / The likes of the Apple store and other retailers have demonstrated how beacon functionality can smooth the in-store experience, but Sweeper demonstrates a use for the platform beyond the practical. It’s one of the first examples we’ve seen of a brand using beacon technology as part of creative campaign rather than as a utility, and gives an inkling of the breadth and depth of experience that it could help to provide in the not-so-distant future.

Donation built in / The app’s donation mechanic is particularly clever, targeting potential donors at exactly the moment they’re most likely to give. The phenomenon of ‘Scope Insensitivity’ means that people are likely to ignore problems that seem too big and unrelated to their own lives, with research showing that 42% of people give to charities that have a personal relevance to them. By asking for a (relatively small) contribution immediately after the visitor has experienced the fear of land mines first hand, they’re much more likely to give.

For Now / Next / Why information and tickets, go to or email