Testing augmented reality

I carried out a short internship for the Lights On! -project related to the cultural management studies.

My job was, amongst others, to test how to augment historical characters to sites which have been photographed earlier by the project. Internship gave me new perspectives on how you can develop tourism utilizing augmented reality (combining augmented elements, for instance sound, video or graphics, to real-world environment). You can highlight cultural heritage and create different kinds of elements to enliven sites and the experience when visiting the sites. When you add elements to environment you should also remember the ethics and sustainability of your actions.

I did my internship remotely which meant working by myself at home. Therefore I tried different kind of things independently without guidance. This was challenging and sometimes very frustrating. Gladly I have wonderful friends with whom I can discuss things and generate ideas. Their assistance helped me to continue forward. They also provided me with good tips on which computer programs I should use for image processing for example.

Technology – utilizing and usability- trial and error

I used mainly the free Aurasma application. I also experimented with other applications such as Augment, Layar and the Finnish Arilyn.  In order to add elements (picture, sound, video) to Aurasma application you need a trigger image and overlay.

To bring augment historical characters to sites you have to use many programs to actually make that happen.

I am not comfortable with technical devices and programs. We do not seem to find mutual understanding on how things should work. When I had technical problems or issues with using different kinds of programs and applications I learned on Youtube tutorials – like my tutor advised to do.

To create different elements for overlays which come alive behind Aurasma trigger image you can use, for example, the free of charge GIMP – GNU Image Manipulation Program, Audacity audio editor and Windows Movie Maker. Some free programs you can use only for a short period and there might be differences concerning usability compared to paid programs. Do not be surprised if you have problems when you try to open your work in the next program, it does happen (pay attention to format!). I have several versions in my laptop of every stage of trying to do the work. And if you do all the work with your computer and transfer you triggers and overlays to Aurasma… you might realize soon that those changes did not come out on your mobile application. In practice it means trial and error all over again.

Using Aurasma application and its limitations outside

So, how was it actually to test appearance historical characters on sites? Possibilities to use Aurasma are limited. Aurasma works, sometimes. When you take trigger image you should have invariable circumstances and enough light even indoors. It is hard to create good trigger images. Trigger image has been taken in certain moment for example in winter. When you try it again when the location looks different or even light has changed it (probably) does not work. Trigger you have made does not work during the summer because the application does not recognize the place. So, how can you put these augmented reality elements to be seen in sites while seasonal circumstances vary? This is going to be a challenge if Aurasma is going to be used in outdoor sites.

Possibilities using augmented reality are basically limitless. You can conceive different kinds of productions for different purposes and target groups. Easier said than done – to create and bring augmented reality elements to real-world environment. Making these ideas and visions to come alive you need the know-how of various experts and to combine their work. Actually it needs resources, time and money! You cannot expect students to make all the work for free. Good quality production and experience for target groups utilizing augmented reality is made by professionals (combining information and communications technology and skilled workers of Culture and Arts). Good quality productions are also created by using good and appropriate tools.

Mari Lämsä