Old Guide PamphletNew Philadelphia is a national historic site in Illinois, managed by the U.S. National Park Service. It is the site of the first town founded by freed black slaves. However, despite being an important historic location, the town has since died out. Currently almost nothing of the town remains, and the site is for the most part just some dirt roads through an open field. The goal if the AR tour project was to use technology to improve the visitor experience. Previously, guests would have to follow a map, photos, and descriptions on a printed pamphlet.
Virtual scenery behind guidepost With our new AR tour app and signposts placed around the site, visitors can hold up their phone or tablet to these signs to see an animated 3D view of what the town used to look like composited into the camera image of the way the site looks now.
The designer of this project was technical enough to build the virtual scenery and even to program an interactive app in Unity3D, but hired me to develop the computer vision and augmented reality portion of the app. This started with researching and experimenting with several augmented reality middlewares. Most augmented reality applications are designed for at most table-sized use and involve replacing a coded tag with a small virtual object.
Start by finding one of the guideposts By contrast, we wanted to use specially designed and placed guideposts for tracking, but rather than place a small object in front of them, we wanted to place a large scene behind them. So I had to build up a framework around an existing AR library to handle tracking and displaying these scenes and not having them occlude the nearer guideposts. I constructed several of these guideposts in order to be able to perform real-world tests in a local field.
Some scenes were animated In the end, I built the basis of the app such that the designer could easily add his own guideposts and scenes and add whatever interactions he wanted on top that without having to worry about the augmented reality elements. I also helped prepare the app for publishing on both the iOS app store and Google Play store for Android.