Augmented Reality Narratives / Gems Exhibit

Zach Liebman’s Visualizing Sound AR app

For this post, I am exploring ideas and context for creating an augmented reality experience for the Smithsonian’s “Gems” exhibit. There are a lot of interesting stories about gems that could be told. I did a project awhile back when I was studying multimedia journalism in Sierra Leone and saw the effects of the civil war that occured there 10 years earlier, essentially because of the diamond trade. There are so many anthropological, cultural and civil implications behind the gem industry. Gems have shaped society as we know it across the world and I think there are many stories to be told there, like ones in Sierra Leone where war and corruption erupted over the stones. Or perhaps cultural ones, like Jade that have religious and spiritual value in places like China and South America.
Augmented reality will define how the narrative is told because there is so much possibility for interaction. The narrative is less constrained when the user can interact as they choose and the interface is the real world, which they already know how to navigate. Augmented reality also has the possibility to create the impossible by add a third dimension to our world. For example, we might be able to see the ancient Mayan warriors that used jade for spears walking next to use, despite the fact that they lived thousands of years ago. For example, a user could enter into the exhibit and hold up their phone to see some of the artifacts made with jade during that time period.
A user can leave a persistent mark through a few different means ranging from an interaction choice that changes the AR experience to taking a photo of the interaction and allowing other users to navigate based on their experience.

3 AR Experiences I enjoy:

1. Zach Lieberman’s Visualizing Sound AR: For this AR experience you can make sound and your phone creates real-time AR visualizations based on the sounds you are making. It’s a great way to interact differently with simple sensory input. It’s also fun to just make weird sounds and watch the different visualizations form.
2. Franklin Institute – Terracotta Warriors : This is a cool experience because it allows artifacts and pieces of history to come alive. You are able to hold up your phone and literally “arm” them with ancient weapons. It’s a great way to provide visual context to the story without forcing people to imagine what tools they might have used.
3. WWF Arctic Polar Bears– I love this experience because it allows you to be fully immersed on an iceberg with a polar family. Eventually the ice melts and breaks off and you are forced to watch the family swim and try to find another iceberg, meanwhile you feel as though you are drifting away. It’s an emotional experience in the museum that groups can participate in and provides a way to educate kids and adult on the abstract yet serious problem of climate change.

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