AR and “on the fly immersion”

I’m a hopeless historian. Somewhat like a hopeless romantic, but… think… history.

So, here I am at a mini soccer tournament (yes, I’m typing this blog post on my smartphone), in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, and in the interim between games, what do I do? I visually survey the surrounding scenescape; taking note of the lay of the land, hills, roadways, etc., and wondering about the history that the land holds tight in its grasp. I can’t see that history… I don’t know it… but it’s there, and I know it’s there.

Like I said… a hopeless historian (read by some… geek).

Even though I don’t know the history, I quickly resort to identification of history based on proximity. Just to the south… Martinsburg; and to the north… the Potomac River, C&O Canal, Maryland, and Antietam Battlefield. It’s impossible, therefore, that the land around this spot doesn’t have history relative to all those things to the south and north.

But what does this have to do with AR and “on the fly immersion”?

For one… like many sites I “take in”, I can visualize the history (“imagined”, based on knowledge of history at sites not too far away). In some ways it reminds me of a built-in AR machine in some people. I limit it to some people because, well, if you’re that much into history, it’s often something you just do. Some people understand what I’m saying here, but some people, I suspect, can’t quite grasp it.

Therein lies the point.

Years ago, well before I tinkered with AR (or was even aware of it), I wondered how I could help others visualize what I visualized, historically-speaking. To that end, I can certainly see the potential of AR. Yet, it’s not simply a matter of visualizing, but… conveying…, if only a little bit, that “giddiness” of knowing the stories held tightly in the terrain and/or structures. To those who ask, “If only that building could talk”, well, AR is a way to facilitate that very thing.

Still… what about the interface… between the human and the machine? For one, that interaction (especially “in the field”) needs to be delivered in small bites. Frankly, I don’t see a benefit of flooding a user with too much information while out and about touring historic sites, using a handheld device. To me, the AR experience needs to complement the real world experience, and vice versa… one experience not detracting from the other. Therefore, when considering historic sites, is immersion something one really wishes to create in the AR function? Can it be created and not detract from the real world experience? If immersion is possible in the AR, without detracting from the real world experience, is it only limited to an audio feature of the AR?

The first hurdle completed in the quest to create immersion, I suppose, is in that moment when a person (the user) goes to a site and raises that handheld device in order to partake in the AR feature. That human curiosity is the first step. So, what’s the next step, and how is user immersion effectively measured? What is considered successful?

Something I’m giving more thought…

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