My proposal is available as a Google Docs Presentation with educational scenarios and more information here.
The Civil War Augmented Reality Project (ACWAR) is my recent brainchild. I’m a high school history teacher and college history adjunct. The objective of the project is to effectively fund the development and implementation of augmented reality services related to the American Civil War in Pennsylvania. The project’s inception is planned to give ample development and publicity time in the run up to the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, beginning in April 2011.
The project is also timed to take advantage of recent technological developments, and developments in the foreseeable future. The project’s heart will be a collection of points of interest regarding the Civil War in Pennsylvania, particularly related to Lee’s invasion of the north in 1863. This collection will be made available to the public through several “augmented reality” applications.
(from Wikipedia) Augmented reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery… As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality… In the case of Augmented Reality, the augmentation is conventionally in real-time and in semantic context with environmental elements, such as sports scores on TV during a match. With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally usable. Artificial information about the environment and the objects in it can be stored and retrieved as an information layer on top of the real world view.
This Augmented Reality application will allow users with iPhones and Android devices (digital compass required) to view the relative locations of points of interest when holding their device in any particular direction. It is also possible to view 3D models and images projected on the landscape, and possible to track the arrival of users in particular locations. This tracking is quite useful in creating interactive contests, and can also be used to give rewards to the user (coupons, images and models that can
only be viewed after completing a task). If, for example, a user completes a task and is rewarded with the ability to view a 3D model, the user can snap a picture of the model with his or her device (even including his or herself in the picture). Users may also be able to unlock “secret” sites and collect images of them for bragging rights.
Everything described above is now possible, with development work. Layar and Junaio offer free applications for iPhone and Android devices that allow users to view points of interest in the real world using their phones, Layar itself have the ability to offer the “contest” or “scavenger hunt” activities to users. Foursquare and Gowalla offer free applications that allow users to “check-in” to locations for bragging rights and other rewards (i.e. a person who visits a coffee shop more than anyone else becomes the “mayor” of the shop, and receives free products).
The experience will surely improve in the near future. The advent of the iPad has driven tremendous public interest in tablet computers, but unfortunately, the iPad has no camera, a requirement for the AR experience. This shortfall by Apple is already leading to a mass development of tablet PC’s- driven by the chance to offer a better user experience and more capabilities than the iPad. This will be a boon for augmented reality in the near future, as the user experience will now take place on a much larger screen. This advance to more useful tablets will drive more interest in AR applications, but will also allow the ACWAR project to create portable AR devices to be rented to visitors to locations in PA, and to offer school children a chance to see Central Pennsylvania’s Civil War experience in a new, interactive, high interest way.
But what of the user who is unfamiliar with smartphones, tablets, or augmented reality?
The project proposes to construct stationary AR devices patterned after the “pay binoculars” often found at scenic overlooks. Rather than offering a view of the nearby scenery, the devices will offer a virtual geographic view from a few hundred yards above the user. Physically swiveling the viewer left and right changes the direction of the view in real time, just as swiveling up and down changes the view. The intuitive nature of the device is intended to invite “non-tech oriented” persons to try the experience, and learn more about the Civil War experience in PA. It is proposed that these stationary binoculars be set up at locations across the region, at major locations touched by fighting in the war: Greencastle, Mercersburg, Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Carlisle, Mechanicsburg, Harrisburg, York, Wrightsville, Columbia, Hanover, and Gettysburg. In order to give the user a sense of the historical and transportational interconnectedness of each location, a nearby screen will project realtime webcam images of people using the devices at other locations (audio communication also a possibility).
All of these applications will be linked to a central web hub, a place to offer information without the use of augmented reality. All of the 3D models (available in AR), information on the points of interest, and links to partner sites will be included. There will also be interactive maps showing the locations of points of interest, locations of the binoculars, etc.
These experiences are also intended to enhance educational experiences for young
people, and offer challenges and rewards for both young and old. The AR experience is not inherently passive. Users can “check in” at specific sites just by standing at the site. These visits can be tracked. Rewards can be offered for visiting sites multiple times, sites can be ordered to promote users to visit sites in order (encouraging visits to sites across the region), and scavenger hunts can be constructed, giving clues for users to move from site to site, and even unlock “secret” sites.
ACWAR could also meld seamlessly with the Pennsylvania Civil War Trails initiative:
The Pennsylvania Tourism Office has teamed up with Google Earth, Carnegie Mellon University, the National Civil War Museum, and BarkleyREI to offer 3D tours of Pennsylvania’s Civil War historic sites on Google Earth.
This project involves the production of high-resolution gigapan images —short for Gigapixel Panoramas —that will allow virtual tourists, students, and historians to examine Pennsylvania’s Civil War sites in breathtaking detail. Gigapan technology combines thousands of digital images to create a panoramic image of more than one billion pixels so users can virtually enter, explore, zoom in on details of interest, and even go back in time to witness the change of seasons on a historic Civil War battlefield, enabling more of a sensory experience than was ever before possible via imagery on the web.
Whereas the present plan implements high-interest Google Earth tours and panoramic photos, ACWAR would integrate real-world interactivity, and bring the story of Pennsylvania’s Civil War off of the web and into the public, outdoor sphere.
Why is ACWAR a good fit for Central Pennsylvania and the Civil War?
Central Pennsylvania is heavily populated with universities, colleges, museums, parks, and historical societies that would greatly benefit from ACWAR, particularly in the run-up to the Susquicentennial. However, their benefits would be greatly enhanced by a joint venture such as ACWAR. Candidates for partnership in ACWAR include:
Pennsylvania Civil War Trails
The House Divided Project at Dickinson College (Carlisle)
National Civil War Museum (Harrisburg)
Gettysburg National Military Park
Pennsylvania Tourism Commission
Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission
Army Heritage Center (Carlisle)
Allison-Antrim Museum (Greencastle)
Mercersburg Historical Society
Franklin County Historical Society
Cumberland County Historical Society
Lancaster County Historical Society
Columbia Historic Preservation Society
Shippensburg Historical Society
Penn State York
Penn State Harrisburg
York College of Pennsylvania
York Heritage Trust
Dauphin County Historical Society
Hanover Area Historical Society
Mechanicsburg Museum Association
Why should ACWAR begin now?
GPS accuracy improvements
Emerging tablet pc market
Early start for possible collaboration with sites in Maryland and Virginia
What are the benefits of ACWAR over time?
Although the applications for the project will required development and design work, the technology is emerging, and ACWAR will be able to integrate open-source improvements over time.
If needed, ACWAR can be monetized. The Augmented Reality applications (or only segments of them) can be offered to users for a fee. Advertising can be integrated through sponsorship of sites or activities. Businesses could bid for the placement of one of the “binocular” installations in their business.
The AR experience will improve with faster processor speeds and more tablet offerings and capabilities.
Thanks for checking out my proposal, I’m dying for feedback, questions, criticisms, etc. !Jun 15th by admin