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Blog: history

Discover Phildelphia’s Past on Top of its Present With PhillyHistory AR

Adriane Goetz May 20, 2011










A 1963 photo of 4625 Springfield Ave. in Philadelphia overlaid onto the present location.

With each cool new history layer, we are reminded that Augmented Reality is a great way to display historical photos and information previously hidden away in government archives.



Currently on the Layar platform, you can see San Francisco’s historic Market Street before and after the massive earthquake in 1906 that forever changed the landscape, view the Berlin Wall as it stood between 1961 and 1989, uncover Civil War history and more.



The newest historical addition to the Layar platform, PhillyHistory, uses Augmented Reality to merge Philadelphia’s past with present.



Using content from the Philadelphia Department of Records’ online database (PhillyHistory.org), you can access nearly 90,000 historic images of the city, 500 of which are pinned to the current landscape in virtually their exact location in AR. Of those 500 images, 20 also contain additional information about the places in the photos created by the editors of The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia as well as local scholars.







PhillyHistory App

This massive project was made possible by a Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The organization rewarded this grant to the City of Philadelphia Department of Records (DOR) in order to fund a research project that would investigate the use of Augmented Reality in displaying historic photographs as overlays on a view of the current landscape.



The DOR partnered with Philadelphia-based company Azavea to conduct the research on Augmented Reality and build the mobile phone applications. The two organizations published the results of this research in a free white paper available for download here. The paper also serves as a valuable resource for anyone interested in building on the Layar platform.



The PhillyHistory app is available in the iTunes Store as well as the Android Market, but you can also access it from inside Layar via the PhillyHistory AR layer.









Three phases in the evolution of the PhillyHistory layer

Permalink: www.layar.com/news/blog/284

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Hacking Space and Time

Gene Becker April 19, 2011

In my recent Ignite talk Hijacking the Here and Now: Adventures in Augmented Reality, I showed examples of how creative people are using AR in ways that modify our perceptions about time and space. Now, Ignite talks are only 5 minutes long and I think this is a big idea that’s worth a deeper look. So here’s my claim: I assert that one of the most natural and important uses of AR as a creative medium is hacking space and time to explore and make sense of the emerging physical+digital world.



When you look at who the true AR enthusiasts are, who is doing the cutting edge creative work in AR today, it’s artists, activists and digital humanities geeks. Their projects explore and challenge the ideas of ownership and exclusivity of physical space, and the flowing irreversibility of time. They are starting to see AR as the emergence of a new construction of reality, where the physical and digital are no longer distinct but instead are irreversibly blended. Artist Sander Veenhof is attracted to the “infinite dimensions” of AR. Stanford Knight Fellow Adriano Farano sees AR ushering in an era of “multi-layer journalism”. Archivist Rick Prelinger says “History should be like air,” immersive, omnipresent and free. And in their recent paper Augmented Reality and the Museum Experience, Schavemaker et al write:

In the 21st century the media are going ambient. TV, as Anna McCarthy pointed out in Ambient Television (2001), started this great escape from domesticity via the manifold urban screens and the endless flat screens in shops and public transportation. Currently the Internet is going through a similar phase as GPS technology and our mobile devices offer via the digital highway a move from the purely virtual domain to the ‘real’ world. We can collect our data everywhere we desire, and thus at any given moment transform the world around us into a sort of media hybrid, or ‘augmented reality’. [emphasis mine]

When the team behind PhillyHistory.org augments the city of Philadelphia with nearly 90,000 historical photographs in AR, they are actively modifying our experience of the city’s space and connecting us to moments in time long past. With its ambitious scope and scale, this seems a particularly apt example of transforming the world into a media hybrid.



In their AR piece US/Iraq War Memorial (pictured below), artists Mark Skwarek and John Craig Freeman transpose the locative datascape of casualties in the Iraq War from Wikileaks onto the northeastern United States, with the location of Baghdad mapped onto the coordinates of Washington DC. In addition to spatial hackery evocative of Situationist psychogeographic play, this work makes a strong political statement about control of information, nationalist perspectives and the cultural abstraction of war.



us-iraq-maps



Now let’s talk about this word, ‘hacking’. Actually, you’ll note that I used the term ‘hijacking’ as well, so let’s include that too. My intent is to evoke the tension of multiple meanings: Hacking in the sense of gaining deep understanding and mastery of a system in order to modify and improve it, and as a visible demonstration of a high degree of proficiency. Also, hacking in the sense of making unauthorized intrusions into a system, including both white hat and black hat variations. I use ‘hijacking’ in the sense of a mock takeover, like the Black Eyed Peas playfully hijacking the myspace.com website for publicity purposes, but also hijacking as an antagonistic, possibly malign, and potentially unlawful attack. In the physical+digital augmented world, I expect we will see a wide variety of hacking and hijacking behaviors, with both positive and negative effects. For example, in Skwarek’s piece with Joseph Hocking, the leak in your hometown, the corporate logo of BP becomes the trigger for an animated re-creation of the iconic broken pipe at the Macondo wellhead, spewing AR oil into your location. It is possible to see this as an inspired spatial hack and a biting social commentary, but I have no doubt BP executives would consider it a hijacking of their brand in the worst way.



In his book Smart Things, ubicomp experience designer Mike Kuniavsky asks us to think of digital media about physical entities as ‘information shadows’; I believe the work of these AR pioneers points us toward a future where digital information is not a subordinate ‘shadow’ of the physical, but rather a first-class element of our experience of the world. Even at this early stage in the development of the underlying technology, AR is a consequential medium of expression that is being used to tell meaningful stories, make critical statements, and explore the new dimensionality of a blended physical+digital world. Something important is happening here, and hacking space and time through AR is how we’re going to understand and make sense of it.

Permalink: www.layar.com/news/blog/264

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Tiananmen SquARed: Memorializing History with AR

Chris Cameron March 9, 2011

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the protests and uprisings that are sweeping through North Africa like wildfire. Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have all seen massive movements of civilians protesting their government, thanks in no small part to the presence and organizational power of social media.



When a dictator’s first strike against protestors is to shut off the Internet, you know that the age of the digital revolution has arrived. The social web is not just helping to fight these battles, but also to remember them.



John Craig Freeman, a digital artist and new media professor at Emerson College, has created several layers promoting social awareness and memorializing pivotal moments in history, including the 1989 Tiananmen Square “Tank Man” incident.



The morning after the Chinese government forcibly removed protestors from Tiananmen Square in Beijing, an unknown man blocked a column of Chinese tanks simply by standing in front of them. Images of the tank vs. man standoff became a well-known symbol of the struggle between the Chinese people and their government at that time.



Freeman has allowed this moment in history to live on through augmented reality. With his Tiananmen SquARed layer, visitors to Beijing can see a 3D representation of the incident appear right before their eyes.



“Although it has been more than twenty years since Tiananman Protest took place in 1989, the authority persistently uses all means erasing the facts that Chinese people pursued democracy in this democratic and anti-corruption movement,” says Freeman in the layer’s description. “History should not be forgotten.”



Freeman’s other layers include “Décharge De Rebut Toxique,” a toxic waste art installation; and “Azadi SquARed,” a digital memorial to Neda Agha-Soltan, an Iranian citizen gunned down during the 2009 Tehran protests.

Permalink: www.layar.com/news/blog/244

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Stroll Down San Francisco’s Market Street Like It’s 1899

Chris Cameron February 24, 2011

If you have watched the beautiful, brand new Layar video which we introduced yesterday then you undoubtedly spotted a very interesting layer found only in San Francisco. No? Missed it? Well then be sure to re-watch the video and scrub to around the 48 second mark.



See it now? The layer is called “Historic Market St.” and it was produced by bigBigBang. Using public domain archival footage from 1906 (okay, not exactly 1899, but I was only seven years off), this layer allows you to take a leisurely stroll down Market Street in San Francisco and view video clips showing what the street looked like over 100 years ago.





The video was shot from a camera placed on a street car, providing an interesting point-of-view as the car rolls east down Market Street. The street is filled with people milling about, children running, chaotic horse-drawn buggy traffic jams and these radical new inventions terrorizing the streets - automobiles!



As you walk down Market Street, different segments of the video begin playing, unveiling the early days of the centuries-old street right before your eyes.

The video is part of the archives of Rick Prelinger, a filmmaker and archivist whose massive collection was acquired by the U.S. Library of Congress in 2002. Many of the films of the Prelinger Archives were placed into the public domain by way of the Internet Archive, including the video featured in the Market Street layer.



The Prelinger Archives contain over 60,000 advertising, educational, industrial and amateur films - over 2,000 of which can be accessed on the Internet Archive. Wouldn’t it be great if some enterprising individual decided to gather these films, geotag them and place them in a database connected to a layer? History would come alive on more streets in more cities, not just one main drag in San Francisco. We at Layar think this would be a terrific project.



Looking into the past is one of the truly fascinating and thrilling uses of Augmented Reality as we mentioned not long ago with the use of historic photographs in Layar. Historic Market St. allows you to immerse yourself in the San Francisco of 1906 - just watch out for those darned horse-drawn buggies and crazy drivers!



To view the entire 1906 Market Street film (all 14 minutes of it), be sure to visit the Internet Archive where the video is available to watch or download.

Permalink: www.layar.com/news/blog/237

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Uncovering Civil War History with Layar

Chris Cameron January 18, 2011

Here on the Layar blog we have featured many layers that help us peer into the past with photographs and historical information. Augmented Reality has enormous educational potential both in and out the classroom, and one layer is helping visitors of old battlefields to envision history.



The layer “Battle of Franklin Sites” shows Layar users POIs associated with the historic American Civil War battle in Franklin, Tennessee. These include historic buildings, military cemeteries, medical facilities, locations of notable deaths, and even models of the front battle lines. Some practical tourist information, such as the location of nearby public restrooms, is also included.



Tourism officials in Franklin are hoping that using emerging mobile technology like Augmented Reality will help attract and engage visitors as the 150th anniversary of the war approaches in 2014. Why visit an old battlefield only to stand around and imagine what happened where? With this layer, visitors can use their mobile phones to see exactly where the battle lines were drawn.



Interestingly enough, this isn’t the only project using Augmented Reality in conjunction with the history of the American Civil War. The Civil War Augmented Reality Project is an effort by teachers in Pennsylvania to use the technology to enhance student experiences at historic Civil War sites. Along with mobile applications, the group hopes to install stationary “pay binoculars” which they hope will attract less technical visitors to engage with Augmented Reality.



These historical sites are prime targets just waiting to be enhanced by great Augmented Reality experiences. Soon, gone will be the days of tour guides saying, “A long time ago, important evens transpired right here on this ground.” Instead they will allow the visitors to see for themselves with Augmented Reality.



Layer: Battle of Franklin Sites
Location: Franklin, TN, U.S.A.
Required: iPhone or Android device
Developer: GDM

Permalink: www.layar.com/news/blog/222

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