dh2017 Recap

Sarah and Celeste give thumbs up next to their poster for dh2017

This month, Sarah Calhoun and I attended dh2017 in Montreal to present a prototype augmented reality app co-developed with Andrew Wilson and Adam Kral. Our poster and additional resources are linked here, but here’s the synopsis:

Our goal was to create an augmented reality app that could better visualize complex and multiple temporalities AND be an easy reusable resource for classroom use. We chose a mural painted in a Thai Buddhist temple in the UK as our case study because of its layered iconography: the mural depicts the Buddha’s defeat of Mara, but the painter chose to include anachronistic elements including machine guns, Vincent Van Gogh, and a rocket ship. We wanted a way to highlight both the historical references, which could be plotted along a traditional chronological timeline, and the temporality of Buddha’s history which could not.

We got useful and positive feedback from the poster session at dh, as well as additional ideas for refining and extending the app from attending several sessions. Our next steps are to clean up some of the identified bugs and do several rounds of user testing with faculty, staff, and students to clarify how we proceed.  

Kral, a rising sophomore, did the bulk of the development work over the summer: learning Unity and building it out in AR Toolkit. His account of what he built is posted here, and we plan to continue building on Adam’s work and thank him for his efforts!

 

proposal accepted for dh2017!

photograph of temple wall with Buddhist art and alter in foreground

I’m thrilled to say that Andrew Wilson, Sarah Calhoun, and I had our poster proposal accepted for dh2017 in Montreal! We’re experimenting with augmented reality for representing complex temporalities in Buddhist temple murals, and creating lower barrier to entry teaching modules using AR.

Our poster will outline our theoretical framework, detail our development process using Vuforia, and provide possible avenues for further lines of inquiry and applications for temporal visualizations. We’ll include static images of the AR experience, as well as ways to access our project remotely.

We identify two main problems that this initial experiment will address. The first is the issue of visualizing multiple temporalities. Our motivating questions are: what are the visual and spatial relationships between the chronological story of the Buddha defeating Mara given how some Buddhists believe that the Buddha is personal and eternal and always present throughout time? How is that expressed in the mural through a wide range of artistic styles and historical references? These questions will be answered through the course of our research.

The second problem is a more practical question of how to use augmented reality to further research and teaching of these complex cultural concepts when both the visual and technical resources are limited. We intend to use the extant low-res photographs available of the Defeat of Mara temple mural and the augmented reality framework Vuforia to create a cross-platform experience of the religious expression. This will allow users to see and select individual elements in the mural (such as the Mona Lisa or the spaceship) and engage with the different ways one can order and make meaning out of the varied chronologies and temporal references. Vuforia allows us to use an existing framework that has the benefit of being accessible on multiple platforms. We believe this is necessary for facilitating the adoption of augmented reality for classroom and preliminary research uses.