Using Apple’s ARKit for creative and historical expression

History, if understood, has a tendency to exorcise ignorance. Used correctly, Apple’s technologies could help do just that.

Apple, iOS, ARKit, history, beacons
Lockheed Martin

A wiser person than myself once called prejudice “little more than an emotional commitment to ignorance”. One way to eliminate ignorance is to understand history, and Apple and ARKit have the potential to do that.

Making history

We’ve looked before at how beacon-based technologies can be used to augment public exhibitions – they can be used to provide access to rich and immersive resources designed to help you learn much more about the physical objects you can see.

The technology was recently used to add life to an annual event at Portugal's Óbidos Medieval Market.

Visitors could use an app on their smartphones to access information about what was going on (such as jousting competitions), look at maps and get other information about the festival.

This is not an especially new idea: you’ll find similar linkups between smartphones and public information being made available at galleries, museums and exhibitions all over the planet.

Developers build in features such as providing easy access instructions to venues, locations of shops and other resources, timetables, even social features to help you find your friends. That’s pretty normal. But ARKit adds a new dimension and is accelerating interest in the development of new experiences.

Moving with images

We can already use QR codes and beacon-based technologies to provide access to other assets, such as audio descriptions, images, videos to those using apps on their mobile devices. ARKit enables users to overlay new information, augmented data, or even virtual video across what they see. One great example of this is the VR-based tour of a Boeing 737 at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

In Portugal, AR may have enabled the medieval festival organizers to create experiences in which visitors saw video of life at that time, or got to cast themselves as knights-a-jousting.

ARKit also offers the opportunity to create virtual exhibits in places in which construction of a physical exhibit isn’t possible (as is being developed by EyeSphere).

You can imagine these technologies being used for complex local history tasks, or even for purely personal geotagging – leaving personal messages in specific places tied to beacons, or event to mapping systems a la Google Earth. Such AR meets public space ideas are already emerging – take a look at the ‘Wild Life’ exhibition in London as an example of this.

Join the dots

In truth, it is becoming possible to link beacon-based presence and location solutions with ARKit in order to provide ambient experiences for public art and exhibition.

This has huge potential for education – a visitor to Washington D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial might be given the chance to watch and keep Martin Luther King’s defining ‘I Have a Dream’ speech; Visitors to Nuremberg might get to see how rank populism and manufactured inequality were used by a former demagogue to capture power.

It is possible to create solutions that allow people to immerse themselves in virtual experiences of other great speakers, from Abraham Lincoln to Gandhi. Or of any significant historical or cultural event.

ARKit enables such experiences in ways that become far more immersive than watching a video, and used in conjunction with beacon-based tech it becomes possible to inject history and historical knowledge within everyday public experience.

The future of ARKit need not be confined to the creation of retail and mass market entertainment apps, it can also help augment our existing reality with ideas that may enable us to learn from our history, and thus avoid repetition of it.

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