Trace Touch Feel The Brisbane River

Experience the curious and unexpected sensation of ultrasonic pressure against your hands as you soar like a bird on an immersive geo-tour of Brisbane River.

Through skilful hand movements, pilot a virtual Steampunk drone from Moreton Bay to Wivenhoe dam. Glide past graceful bridges that link the city, cliff to cliff. Then touchdown along Brisbane shorelines to enjoy the shapes, sounds, and forms of the city’s unique interplay of geology, wildlife, and human activity.

Hosted at The Cube, QUT’s two-storey sized multi-screen venue, this ‘haptic’ journey uses rich satellite imagery, geospatial data and 360 drone videography. Through bird’s-eye and on-the-ground viewpoints of St Helena Island, Good Will Bridge, Story Bridge, Toowong Creek, and Lake Wivenhoe, visitors are enticed to explore how Brisbane is moulded by its riparian environment.


StarSapphire Productions teamed up with QUT VISER to create this immersive GroundTruth storytelling experience for Curiocity Brisbane 2021.

The call-out was for creative works that explore the intersection between art, new-technology and science in engaging and ‘curious’ ways for residents and visitors to Brisbane during the 17 days of Curiocity.

A STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts & Maths) theme is a broad mandate and the creators saw the opportunity to tell a GroundTruth story about the city.

“It’s spatial science meets steampunk and the Brisbane River”

Grania Kelly

Why the Brisbane River?

“You can find your own home, backyard and local playgrounds and see where we connect to the river and our city.”

Gavin Winter

The Brisbane River forms a waterway divide through Brisbane city as it snakes through green suburbs to its source in the hinterland 133km away.

A thing of beauty and yet a force to be reckoned with, the river is heart and soul of Brisbane’s identity. It has inspired the city’s laidback lifestyle and outdoor culture. At the same time, the river can present serious threats to living in Brisbane, being the source of some of Queensland’s most catastrophic flooding events.

Trace Touch Feel creators sought to recognise the legendary role the Brisbane River has as both muse and nemesis in shaping Brisbanites’ relationship with their city by designing an experience where users are enticed to journey its riverine shorelines and explore its hidden terrain and grids. All the while immersing themselves in the city’s ecological roots as a riparian settlement and reflect on its origins as a penal colony.

‘Spatial Art’

Spatial science has a pivotal role in monitoring, tracking, and predicting the future of the Brisbane River and when it might flood again. Spatial sciences are also transforming learning experiences in the classroom and offer creative scope for enrichened media and entertainment experiences for wider audiences. Trace Touch Feel translates STEM principles of geoscience and digital technology in an immediate visual, aural and tactile way. It is “spatial art”. And a nod to virtual travel with its use of Haptic technology to navigate by the ‘feel’ of air vibrations.

Embedded in the work are visualized environmental data – the work of scientists and researchers. Users are offered a unique sensory experience to virtually ‘ground truth’ where they live in relation to the ever-present river by interacting with this geospatial mapping. For example, users can ‘trace’ and ‘touch’ the panels of small screens to explore the hidden layers of Brisbane’s waterflow and intuitively grasp the dominating force the Brisbane River has on the city.

A nice surprise is that users can choose to leave Brisbane and go globe-trotting, tracing, touching their way across the world to the street where they grew up or used to live on.

“Through interactive exploration of spatial data, you discover Brisbane’s river as an ecological landform that has shaped the city’s engineering and evolving land uses.”

Gavin Winter

The team

“Imagine virtually piloting your own journey with a Steampunk drone on a large screen and feeling a tingling sensation under your hand as you watch the landscape glide by.”

Grania Kelly

Since collaborating on GroundTruth – Fire, Flood and Human Endeavour in 2018, this is the second major GroundTruth collaboration by Grania Kelly (projects’ creative director) of StarSapphire Productions and QUT’s multidisciplinary VISER team, led by manager Gavin Winter (project’s technology director).

Grania Kelly is a new-media artist and documentary filmmaker working in immersive storytelling, exploring the intersection between art, new-technology and science through her company StarSapphire Productions.

VISER specialises in design and development of digital solutions for research and commercial partners, such as interactive spatial visualisation environments, integrated computational modelling processes, immersive interfaces, and visualisation.

Watch the 360º Videos

Flying Air

Five signposted landmarks indicate where you can land the Steampunk drone. Each destination is a unique view on the interplay of how the river and natural environment has shaped Brisbane and continues to co-exist with the city. As you navigate the drone toward a crosshair, it takes skill and focus to trigger a bullseye and steer a descent. If successful, the steampunk drone morphs into a sophisticated drone-helicopter as you begin a super-real, high-resolution 360-degree column landing to the ground.

St Helena Settlement
St Helena Shoreline
Story Bridge
Goodwill Bridge
Perrin Park
Lake Wivenhoe


Touch, Feel the Brisbane River – the Art & Science of Haptic Storytelling

Thursday, 22 July 2021 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm AEST, at QUT The Cube 2 George St · Brisbane City

Register to Attend here.

Trace, Touch, Feel The Brisbane River

Fri 12th Mar – Sun 28th Mar 2021, 8am to 8pm – Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm – Saturday & Sunday, City Botanic Gardens.