Augmented Reality can link us to the past and the future
You may have heard of the Augmented Reality revolution, which is slowly making its way to our mobile devices and through them – cities and homes. As the name suggests, AR consists of various technologies that allow us to breach the barrier between real spaces and the digital world by projecting content directly onto the screens of our mobile phones. All you need is a camera that records your surroundings and an app that can modify the video in exciting ways. What most people originally thought would only find functional application in gaming and porn is now being successfully reconceptualised for use in other areas of our lives as well. One of those is heritage and culture.
A link to the past
Augmented Reality allows us to create a connection between the past and the present within the city landscape. This concept is excellent for both locals who want to learn more about their neighbourhoods or tourists for whom the traditional sightseeing is not enough. About 10 years ago, Museum of London released Streetmuseum, an app that allowed its users to view historic images overlaid onto the city landscape. Since then the technology has gone even further. It is now possible to conjure video and 3D objects, embedded comments and audio based on our location alone, sometimes even without the need for GPS. Apps like Geomapper enable you to record your own walking tours real-time, follow into the footsteps of others and get discounts in the nearby shops. Augmented visualisation allows us to create a link to the past but also shape the future.
Closer to home, one of the most recent projects of the London based studio city-insights is attempting to bring extensive archives of the LGBT community around the area of Islington. Their goal is to create ‘a purpose built, public facing LGBT+ Archive and building engagement experiences into Islington's physical environment’, partly by creating promenade theatre style interactions through the streets. In cases like this one, augmented reality has the potential to educate as well as entertain, making the ‘hidden knowledge’ of the archives easier to access for community members and tourists alike.
Art and heritage
Augmented reality is also finding exciting applications in museums with directions overlaid onto your surroundings with the help of the recently released Google Tango platform. The app allows you to measure your surroundings with 3D tools, then re-imagine them with virtual furniture and bring virtual objects into your world—from toys to planets to pets.
Another companies which adapts technology to heritage institutions is GuidyGo with its app AR Composer, which lets museums position virtual objects in the environment using accurate geolocation – skipping the need for physical markers or signals. This allows for a truly interactive experience and can be used to bring dinosaurs back to life, embed 3D objects with hotspot comments or immerse unruly children into a virtual treasure hunt.
The world of opportunities
While the length of this piece does not allow to map the all the existing developments in augmented reality, a picture should hopefully emerge of a new and exciting digital territory, which might help us escape the narrow world of the computer screens and mobiles phones and rediscover the reality surrounding us anew. It is virtually impossible to go back to the world before the digital, but it might be possible to integrate the digital with the world, saving us from the dilemma of having to choose between the two. In the time when arts and heritage institutions are in danger of feeling out-dated, augmented reality can breath fresh life into those important segments of human culture.
At the moment, augmented reality opportunities for brands appear to be the biggest within the retail environment. Beauty brands especially can benefit from the interactivity of augmented reality, for example allowing their customers to virtually try their products on before buying. Brands like Sephora and Max Factor are already taking advantage of this technology; digitally linking their in-store products with tutorials, reviews and tools that let you overlap make-up onto photos. With this, gone might be the days when the customers are forced to leave the stores with a rainbow of hard to remove swatches on their wrists. Who knows what other wonders the near future will present us with!
Image source: Evening Standard
- Article by Dominika Noworolska