Augmented Reality in Chicago

Augmented reality (AR), as explained by Bryan Alexander in The New Digital Storytelling, refers to “linking digital content to the physical world, especially by location.” This is different from virtual reality because VR represents the “physical world in digital terms.” Augmented reality adds a digital component to the “analog or offline world.” Alexander explains there are various forms of AR that can be found along a spectrum. He describes a couple possibilities:

  1. Light AR: Basic form of AR that uses geolocated web-based media like Historypin
  2. Superimposed AR: Use a combination of printed page, webcam, and web page to produce 3D animations
    1. Visualizations Superimposed on the real world: Alexander describes this as being on the far end of the AR spectrum – an example would the be the holding a smartphone up to certain areas of a city and then seeing digital information appear over buildings

The latter two examples movie farther along the spectrum because they become “markerless”. Light forms of AR are often marker oriented or object oriented. They require QR codes or some other tag to combine the digital with the physical world. Superimposed AR puts “relevant digital data onto local imagery” without have to scan anything.

There are challenges to AR. Superimposed AR requires large amounts of data. Alexander believes “social and personal comfort levels may repel AR deployment.” He wonders if people will feel comfortable walking around with their faces in a smartphone digesting AR content (which in the year 2016 we all know very few people have a problem walking and using their smartphone). Privacy concerns are always an issue in the digital age. AR would utilize names, logos, and information about businesses which could lead to intellectual property problems.

Augmented reality technology has come a long way and still has plenty of potential. Alexander’s chapter on AR provides a plethora of examples on the technology is being used. This technology benefits a wide variety of institutions and opens up a whole new level of gaming. AR can be used for site-specific (think Assassin or Killer and LARPing) gameplay. The example used by Alexander is Mad City Mystery, which quite frankly sounds like it puts murder mystery dinners to shame. The particular game described by Alexander was staged across an entire city. Handheld devices were used to talk with virtual characters, access documents, conduct tests, and piece together the cause of death.

While reading this chapter I immediately thought about Statue Stories Chicago. Thirty statues in Chicago are “animated” by Chicago celebrities. The user has to swipe their smartphone on a tag and will then get a ‘call back’ from person represented in the statue. The Statue Stories began in August 2015 and is designed to last for one year. I have not personally tried to “talk” with any of the statues, but after reading Alexander’s chapter on AR, I am very curious to see how well the technology works. There are so many historical sites, places, monuments, etc. that could benefit from this type of interaction.

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Statue Stories Chicago

Other AR projects and tools that may be of interest:

  • Chicago.0,0
  • Clio – “Clio is an educational website and mobile application that guides the public to thousands of historical and cultural sites throughout the United States. Built by scholars for public benefit, each entry includes a concise summary and useful information about a historical site, museum, monument, landmark, or other site of cultural or historical significance. In addition, “time capsule” entries allow users to learn about historical events that occurred around them. Each entry offers turn-by-turn directions as well as links to relevant books, articles, videos, primary sources, and credible websites.”
  • Curatescape – “Curatescape is a web and mobile app framework for publishing location-based content using the Omeka content management system.”

One thought on “Augmented Reality in Chicago

  1. Thanks for your post, Megan! Though I’ve interacted with augmented reality platforms such as HistoryPin before, I never knew what to call them! I’m curious, would that free app we learned about at NCPH, Next Exit History, qualify as an AR project? It seems like it would be similar to Clio.


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