As noted in my comments from the AR at Brown project, Augmented Reality in the early 2010s struggled to live up to the hype surrounding the technology at the time. However, this didn’t mean that there weren’t some intrepid souls who were willing to see what could be done with the technology at that time. One such person was Dietrich Neumann, a professor of architectural history at Brown University’s History of Art and Architecture department. In the fall of 2011, I worked with Professor Neumann to create an AR platform that his students would contribute to in lieu of writing papers. The students needed to be able to contribute content independently without any knowledge of computer programming and limited training. There was also no budget, and the platform needed to be built and maintained alongside my other projects and responsibilities.
The solution was the (now discontinued) Wikitude World Browser. At its core the app used KML files to generate augmented reality maps that could be viewed through the browser. Luckily, KML (Keyhole Markup Language) was developed as part of Google Earth, and by 2011 had been integrated into Google Maps. This in turn allowed us to use Google Docs and Sheets to author, store, and organize content. Since Brown was a Google campus this allowed all of the students to easily contribute to the project without requiring any additional software or accounts. The information the students compiled formed the basis for the Brown Facades app which was launched for iPhone in the fall of 2013. While I was unable to assist with the development of the app, I had the honor of presenting a talk on the project at the New Media Consortium’s 2012 Summer Conference in Cambridge Massachusetts.