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#AR / #VR and the sense of place, AR #documentaries

Posted on March 18th, 2017


3/17/2017 @Hunter College, 68th & Lexington Ave, New York, Lang Theater

Four talks were on the use of AR/VR were given by

Samara Smith & Sarah Wright – Revealing Here: Using AR and VR to Transform Sense of Place

Ed Johnston – Augmented Asbury Park

Sam Topiary – Exit Zero: San Francisco Freeway to the Future


Samara Smith spoke about three installations and the role of the documentary

  1. Commotion for the #QueensMuseum in NY – tablet allows users to superimpose routes to work for individual commuters overlaying the physical 3-d display of the panorama of New York.
  2. Walking tour of #HambergerSquare Park in Greensboro, NC. Here walkers take a picture of historical objects in the park and are told the story of the park.
  3. Walking tour of Central Park in NY which uses GPS to activate sounds relevant to the location in the park.


Next, Sarah Nelson Wright spoke about VR projects to give people new perspectives on specific locations

  1. #HiddenVistas showed #HuntersPointSouth as a wild space in NY after industry in the early 20th century abandoned the location and prior to new construction there.
  2. An installation at the Queens museum used a VR mask shaped as a pair of binoculars to give users the impression that they were looking at distant scenes from within the museum
  3. A walking tour of #Soho called #InvisibleSeams superimposed images over advertising billboards of the conditions of garment workers and the pollution from garment product.


Ed Johnson talked about #AugmentedAshburyPark, an AR app which superimposed lost buildings/items on the #AsburyPark, NJ boardwalk. Using images from postcards, a visual and geolocation indexed interactive map was created from the carousel, the wreck of the Moro, etc. The app can also display these images by scanning historical posters from Asbury Park.

They are currently exploring use of Argonjs to revive the geolocation features of the app.


Finally, Sam Topiary talked about the challenges of documenting the history of the Hayes Valley, a site in downtown San Francisco. The challenge is how to tell the story of a part of the city that has seen transformations over time and whose transformations are indicative of the changing fortunes of the city and the inhabitants near the specific location. She concentrated on specific periods

  1. Grass roots organizations that blocked and eventually remove freeways through San Francisco
  2. Temporary conversion of the site to an urban farm for a 3 year period
  3. Construction on the site of luxury apartments as the neighborhood gentrifies

The periods correspond to the ups and downs of the local economy.

She asked the questions of how to communicate the nuances of the history and location without overwhelming the viewer.

She and other panel members talked about how to make an immersive experience but not make it so immersive that the audience becomes passive. Where does narrative fit into this continuum? How does one find and appropriate level of audience interaction?

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