Home news Augmented reality: What is not, can have been before

Augmented reality: What is not, can have been before

  • With the so-called augmented reality virtual figures can be integrated into a real environment.
  • For example, museums can show historical figures where they used to live.
  • The Hamburger Denkmalschutzamt has now developed a corresponding app for city tours.

People have become accustomed to a lot of strange behaviors that put people under the spell of communication technology. Loving couples in the hug, both staring at their smartphone behind the spouse's back, people calling a box called "Alexa" at home, or tourists falling off the cliff because they wanted to take a spectacular selfie. So you'll probably get used to the next generation of smartphone zombies, wildly flailing in the air with their pocket computer, as if it were about capturing stubborn spirits that, however, only see them. That's the way it has to appear from the outside, when "Augmented Reality" (AR) intervenes as a new application for the isolated city tour with mobile phone.

The vision has long been tempting. And in the performance, AR also makes sense, especially for teachers who want to spare themselves the annoyed groan of the Snapchat generation when it comes to trips to the right world. An app mixes on-site the images of the mobile camera of real ruins, churches, houses and other scenes with moving historical animations, funny explanatory avatars, game scenes and links, so that history in Marvel mode can be experienced. But although marketing professionals promise that this mixed reality is the future for all sorts of things – and only with the game "Pokemon Go" two years ago was a very successful version of the "augmented reality" – wait enervated teachers until today on the digital assistance for the class trip.

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But there is still William Lindley. The man was once responsible for the fact that Hamburgers no longer had to tilt their chamber pots out the window and drinking water without cholera pathogens flowed from the tap.

The English engineer, who after the Great Fire of Hamburg in 1842 raised the city to a world-class sanitary level, with sewers, piping systems and large-scale technical buildings, may not be a real glamor star for a digital city tour. But as a technology pioneer for a pioneering product of the educational AR mission, which was developed by the Hamburg Monument Protection Office and published these days, he also appears not so wrong.

Dressed in a brown frock coat and top hat, the Lindley avatar looks like a Charles Dickens character as he appears from three corners of the city out of a blue square on the ground and begins his explanations. With English accent he leads at the main station in a 1855 opened, now virtually appearing bathhouse at the former pig market. Or he explains on Jungfernstieg the principle of communicating pipes, with which the water was pumped from the surrounding area into the houses, accompanied by popular jubilation and flushing noise.

The app shows how beautiful the city once looked

As a software tester you are still in a whining mood with the free outdoor product, because it shows numerous teething troubles: such as dramatic battery discharge, sound and movement problems and missing hints, whether the demonstration goes even further or not. And the contortions that you see on the street in the pursuit of the Lindley ghost make the user pioneer a little monkey.

But for a look through the crack in the door, how monument protection, architecture and urban development could work with mixed-reality illusions in the future, this optimizable impression of the app is always enough. Historic buildings and neighborhoods can dazzle on-site about the contemporary architecture – even if it may bring a nostalgic anger over lost urban beauty to a boil. As a tourism event, this can already be experienced in Cologne and Dresden during virtual city tours, which show the "Alde Göln sur Kaiserzeit" or "Drösden" in the baroque, but with virtual reality glasses stationary in a tram or carriage dummy.

As a marketing expert, the 3-D prophecy was already used, as in the Frankfurt Römer Quartier, where a virtual walk through the newly emerging Old Town brought to life every detail of the controversial district before completion. But this technique becomes really interesting if it can be used on site like the Lindley app. This would allow the comparison of realistic animated architectural designs on the site for participatory procedures. Also, participation in large-scale urban development projects would no longer depend solely on plans that demand a huge amount of abstraction from the layman. Visualizations directly in the city area could very much fuel a democratic discussion about change.

The development costs a lot of money

At the same time, optical overpowering also entails a negative potential for seduction, as project developers are already trying to achieve with conventional renderings. If in the future short-skirted models, happy children and bearded hipsters pretend that the real estate world of sunlit architectural fantasies is still in motion, then the AR presentation may only increase the lying factor of such projects, which after completion often look rather cold, empty and repellent.

Unfortunately, private investors in particular are more likely to have the means to use augmented reality. The development costs of the William Lindley app were in the "upper five-digit range", as Andreas Kellner, the Hamburg director of the monument protection office says, and these funds could only be raised in the context of the European Heritage Year 2018 and as a pilot project. More avatars are therefore currently not planned.

And so it can also be this promising impetus for cultural learning effects as so many ventures in the field of virtual reality. Since the eighties of the last century, VR developers have been trying to spark a visual revolution for everyday life. They produce grandiose ideas and big promises in the Kennlernstadium, but then fail because of the inevitable production costs and the market. Even today, the Hamburg AR app still looks like the thought process has just begun. It probably takes a William Lindley app development to make Mixed Reality an instrument that serves everyone and promotes democracy.

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