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Exploring a City’s Past with Augmented Reality

Chris Cameron July 18, 2014

Over the years, one of the most common uses of Layar and Augmented Reality has been to look into the past with location-specific photographs or 3D models. Whether it’s the Berlin Wall, earthquake-damaged buildings in San Francisco or just a small town in a simpler time, AR is a great way to instantly travel back in time.

It’s in this same vein that the recently created ERA Girona experience was published as a Geo Layer on the Layar App. Those visiting Girona in Spain’s Catalonia region can use the layer to take a look into the city’s past by browsing for nearby historic photos.

The layer is part of the International Augmented Med program started by geographer Laura Olivas. It is funded in part by the European Union and by the Catalan government, and the city council of Girona agreed to allow the use of the photos. The name “ERA” is actually a clever play on words, as “era” means both a period of time in English, Spanish and Catalan, as well as “it was” in Spanish and Catalan. And of course, “RA” is the abbreviation for “Realitat Augmentada.”

More than 50 photos from the turn of the 20th century display Girona’s cultural heritage, including monuments, historical buildings and daily life. Users can search for “ERA Girona” in the Layar App to launch the layer. They only need to look around them with their phone or tablet to discover and view the nearby photographs.

Mouse over this image for an example.

“Every inch of Girona’s stones has plenty of history: the old town, the jewish quarter, the walls, the cathedral, etc,” the project says. “You don’t need Augmented Reality to feel the heritage of such a historical spot. But with ERA Girona, we have collected a series of old photographs, conveniently located along the city through points of interest, enriching your visitor experience letting you compare old photographs with the current status of the same spot.”

Mouse over this image for an example.

The project has gained the attention of the local media, inspiring a segment on a local TV news show and an article in a Catalan newspaper.

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