In spring 2010, the Philadelphia Department of Records (DOR), an Azavea client, was awarded an NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant to research the use of mobile augmented reality technology in displaying a large database of historic photographs.
They partnered with Azavea to conduct the research and create a prototype smartphone application (iPhone and Android) that enables users to view historic images as overlays on the current landscape. In creating the application, we drew from the huge collection of over 107,000 images available on PhillyHistory.org, a previous project we created with DOR.
But how to actually make it happen? We approached application development with many questions. Is augmented reality (AR) a useful method for showing the history of Philadelphia and helping users to see the connections between the past and the present? Is AR technology advanced enough to make this type of application possible? Are smartphone networks fast enough? Is the phone able to pinpoint a user’s location accurately enough to load images of that location even in a crowded urban setting? For the answers to these questions and many more, check out our research results in our “Implementing Mobile Augmented reality Technology for Viewing Historic Images” white paper.