A way of seeing

One abstract for a chapter in a book on “Seeing the Past: Augmented Reality and Computer Vision in History,” premised on the idea that “history is a way of seeing:”

“‘History is all around us. The voices of the past thicken the air, calling out for your attention. When it all gets too much, pull the ear-buds out, stop, and look at where you are with fresh eyes, in the new silence…’ Augmented reality, as currently instantiated, for the most part focuses on the visual through clumsy interfaces with mobile devices. This paper suggests that that a better way to ‘visualize’ history is to focus on augmenting ambient sound, tying the annotated geography of Wikipedia to physical location through earbuds. A prototype will be presented, allowing us to hear the thickness, the discords, of history. The presentation will explore the cognitive loads of various kinds of augmented reality, and the psychology of immersion, and the findings of user interface design to suggest that, for history at least, aural augmented reality is a more effective way of writing history in physical space than the visual.” — Historical Friction: Using Auditory Augmented Reality for Creating Sense of Place

Think about how much “thicker” our experience of everything from museums to graveyards could be. Imagine taking a walking tour of an historic part of New York with noise-canceling headphones and hearing 1840s sounds. Or walking Confederate battlefields and hearing a rebel yell. Or driving through the New Mexico desert and seeing smoke rising from a Pueblo Indian campsite through augmented glasses.

This is the sort of stuff that could transform the social utility of conservancies and historical societies in the years to come. It could help them become some of the most fascinating and just plain fun cultural organizations.

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