Monday, September 14, 2009

Augmented Reality

Virtual reality (VR), which seemed so promising in the 1990s, seems to have ran out of steam. Augmented reality (AR) is VR's new hot sibling. Rather than simulating reality from scratch, AR attaches data to the perceptible world. Imagine aiming your telephone to a certain direction and immediately getting information about what you're looking at. The new technology is quite simple. All you need is a GPS location, your viewing direction, pattern recognition software and an internet link. The Economist (Technology Quarterly, Sept. 5, 2009) pp. 20-21, thinks that VR is the wave of the future (see here). Nokia, Total Immersion, Mobilizy and other companies have already sorted this out. Next June, Wikitude will be available on iPhones. AR's ramifications for the historian are obviously profound. Imagine being able to direct your iPhone to any building and have instant access of its history. The same issue of the Economist included another interesting article about digital geography and user-derived data, see article here.

Leaving AR to the future, I spent my evening in good ole' VR. My avatar Basil Charisma visited the virtual site of Chersonesos in Second Life. Although working at a snail's pace, I have been collaborating with the excavations of a Byzantine house in Chersonesos, Crimea. Tonight, I met project director Adam Rabinowitz (UT Austin), undergraduate Jake Malone (UT Austin) and Second Life expert Carey Phillips (Bowdoin College) on the virtual island (left). In the course of the next few months, we will continue to virtually collaborate. Geeky as this may sound, I look forward to the final result. As far as I know, ours will be the first Byzantine house on Second Life. And as far as I know, I have the coolest avatar name: BASIL CHARISMA.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States