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New AR Application Brings New York City to Life at Viewer’s Locations

Viewers can explore the famous locations of New York City through an augmented reality (AR) technology application.

Several New York University students are breaking new ground in how history is showcased to the masses.

Under the leadership of McCoy Zhu and Samuel Avery, Metro ARchive is developing an augmented reality application that lets individuals explore the buildings and streets of New York.

The application lets users access three options that offer different experiences. These are ‘contemporary,’ ‘historic’ and ‘immersive’ modes which use augmented reality to show users how a particular building or street looked like in the past. They can switch between the historic and contemporary modes to gain access to promos, voiceovers, and news articles. These offer valuable insight into the history, architecture, and current condition of the buildings featured in the apps.

The application can be used to observe a three-dimensional model of a historical building. Viewers can point their phone cameras at a custom city map that can also be controlled by them.

Levin, during his Metro ARchive keynote, said that his new application may be better than the Freedom Trail of Boston in terms of the various walkable experiences it offers. According to him, users can explore complete city blocks in three dimensions.

Levin said that the streets of the city are quite familiar to him and others involved in the project. He elaborated, saying that augmented reality technology can play a major role in people’s lives in the future. Levin hoped to attract the locals to explore the history of places where they lived. He said that technology can be used not only to view places in far-off locations but also the places they see on a regular basis.

Courtesy of Metro ARchive

Based in a report by Untapped New York, users can sign up and test the AR application. They are provided with a sample map of the city that can be printed and used as a reference. There are also plans for the New York Times Magazine to offer a pullout map for app users in the future.

Currently, users of the application can explore the Tuxedo Restaurant in Chinatown’s Doyers Street, which used to be called the Bloody Angle for the murders and street fights that used to occur there. There are plans to roll out more locations after the city reopens.

Levin said that gaining more knowledge of the cities can be useful for generating interesting talking points. He also emphasised that the application also gives people an idea about the communities they reside in. According to Levin, the development team came across information about the Chinese Exclusion Act when they were conducting research and digitisation for the location. He mentioned that the observing layouts and delving into history helps one understand the nuances of the current city.

The AR application is still being developed by Zhu and Levin under the NYC Media Lab Spatial Computing Challenge. They have support from the Research and Development Team of The New York Times. Further offerings are expected in the near future.

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