Visible City is an app launched this week by the Museum of Vancouver (MOV) that uses interviews, your smartphone’s GPS and camera, and augmented reality to layer old pictures over the current streetscape.
“It’s a virtual exhibition,” says curator Hanna Cho. “It invites people to treat the city as a museum itself.”
The mobile tour tracks the rise, fall, and revival of neon in Vancouver, shining a light on people whose lives played out under the lights, their stories creating a “textured social history of Vancouver, illuminated by neon.”
There are a number of interactive time-shifting features. It offers up audio narratives, archival photos, some written text, vignettes, and memories that people share about places like the Ovaltine Cafe and the hustle and bustle of Granville Street during concerts or people like Joey Keithley talking about doing gigs at the Smiling Buddha.
But it is the augmented reality feature that the MOV is really excited about.
It layers an old photo over the spot you’re standing in. For example, if you’re at West Pender and Columbia Street, there’s Foo’s Ho Ho Restaurant and it used to have an enormous neon sign gracing the corner of the building. That’s been taken down but you can stand in a specific location and look at the building with your phone and see the neon sign and what the building looked like.
“You can hear stories from people like Tannis Ling, who revived a neon sign for her restaurant Boa Bi, Mark Brand who talks about why the sign for Save On Meats is so important, and Judy Graves who talks about the infamous but beautiful hotel signs along Hastings and the stories of the people who’s lives were illuminated beneath and behind them.”
For decades in Vancouver, city life bustled beneath a colourful canopy of neon signs; Visible City gives you a real sense of what it was like to bask in that glow.
Augmented reality technology is slowly emerging into the mainstream, but it just got an enormous and… ahem, busty… boost thanks to a new partnership between AR app Layar and the famous Playboy brand. Starting with the new issue, the Netherlands edition of Playboy magazine will include exclusive AR content that can only be triggered when you’re using the Layar app on a smartphone.
The partnership delivers a interactivity and dynamic content that is otherwise lacking from today’s printed material, and Layar’s press release quotes Playboy’s regional editor-in-chief who sees it as way to expand beyond the limited pages of the magazine. For example the static cover is normally just an eye-catching promotional trick on a store shelf–but with Layar technology, it becomes interactive. Using AR as a marketing tool which enhances the experience for the reader.
Layar may seem to be selling out to the tawdry side of technology use, but there’s potential for, um, (no other way to say this…) massive exposure.
An Augmented Reality Chip Might Speed Adoption
If Metaio’s augmented reality chipset can save power in AR apps, smartphone owners could be more inclined to use them.
Could your next smartphone come with an augmented reality chip? That’s the hope over at Metaio, a German company that announced its first augmented reality processing unit on Thursday. Metaio, which has previously just made software that developers can use to build AR apps, is working with mobile chip maker ST-Ericsson to include this “AREngine” in new mobile chips.
The move is interesting because it should mean that smartphones including the chips would be able to run augmented reality apps for longer periods of time while consuming less power—a point stressed by Metaio cofounder and chief technology officer Peter Meier In a video introducing the chipset.
“Imagine walking down the street with your AR glasses, where the camera is scanning your surroundings constantly,” he says.
I can imagine it, especially for AR apps that come in handy while traveling, such as city guides that show information about the buildings and monuments you’re passing as you gaze at them through your smartphone’s screen, interactive games, or even devices for the visually impaired (see “Augmented Reality, Wrapped Around Your Finger”).
Augmented reality is already gaining speed (see “Augmented Reality is Finally Getting Real,” “Google Game Could Be Augmented Reality’s First Killer App,” and “We Still Don’t Know What Google Glass Will be Like to Use”). Metaio’s move could popularize it even faster.