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CG Augmented Reality Nativity Scene Unveiled by the City of Edmonton

The Edmonton City Hall has a new nativity scene that transforms the age-old Christmas event into a cutting-edge CG reality using AR.

The City of Edmonton Augmented Reality application comes with an interactive-type nativity scene, created by NAIT digital media students. It can be accessed by users through a smartphone. The nativity scene will have zoomed in and out of, and projected on large screen devices. Users of the app can get acquainted with Jesus, Joseph, Mary, the Magi, the shepherds and the farm animals in augmented reality (AR), a technology that introduces virtual models in real-world environments.

Once the app is downloaded, the nativity scene can be viewed anywhere. Image source: CEAR screenshot

Users will come across the voice reading of a section from the Gospel of Luke and listen to the sounds of Christmas carols playing in the venue. After downloading the application, smartphone users can choose to view the nativity scene anywhere they want. Anglican minister Rev. Kevin Kraglund, and ex-president of the Edmonton and District Council of Churches distributed the Scripture and led the students on.

The application is now available on Android phones that are above version 7.0 or above. Users of Apple devices can expect it to be available very soon.

John Dowds, City of Edmonton chaplain, gave an interview prior to the December 11th City Hall launch of the app, in which he expressed that the experience has become more important than he had envisioned.

Dowds elaborated on his statement, saying that the experience took him back to an era where a stable scene through which one can wander would have existed. He believes that through the era is now gone, the experience is a throwback to that. Dowds remarked that it will let him enjoy the same feeling virtually with his grandkids, and help in teaching.

Steven Chattargoon, NAIT’s chairman of digital media and information technology, remarked that the nativity scene can be deployed and its size can be customised. He said that users can expand the scene to the size of a barn and take a walk through the scene.

Chattargoon considers the experience to be quite meaningful and valuable from an educational standpoint. He emphasised that many things related to the traditional scene cannot be explored simply by watching from a distance.

The application was developed through the collaborative efforts of NAIT students Christopher Popowich, Sarah Alatamimi, Shawna Ray and Carlos Estay. Currently, it is a section of the Celebrating Our Faiths display at the Edmonton City Hall Foyer, that features exhibits encompassing 14 different faiths. The December display features a clay replica of the Nativity scene.

The app belongs to a pilot project to show respect for different faith communities, whilst spreading information for the public. There are plans to commemorate the Hindu festival of Diwali, the Jewish festival Hanukkah, and the Muslim festival Eid-al-Fitr with AR.

Dowds explained that the effort for greater understanding reduces fear and helps to construct a community spirit. He emphasises that Edmonton being a multi-faith city makes it a place that can accommodate varied expressions.


The students who worked on creating the augmented reality app consider it a learning experience.

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