This is a location-based Augmented Reality (AR) experience aiming to add another layer to the experience of a historically valuable neighborhood, Garment District. AR has a great potential to relate stories with places. This project uses AR technology in order to show the hidden stories which are embedded into the cityscape of Garment District. The narrative of the AR experience is based on the juxtaposition of a story named as “The Guided Tour of 7th Avenue” and the historical photos shows the life at Garment Center back in days.
Project | MFADT Spring 2017 Major Studio II
Role | Research, Wireframing, Experience Design, Development, Visual Design
Tools | Sketch, Unity, Vuforia, After Effects, Illustrator
Team | Tuba Ozkan
New York City is an architectural palimpsest and Augmented Reality is a powerful tool for making the layers of the city visible. Therefore, I chose this platform as a medium to tell this short story about Garment Center. The author of the story ‘The Guided Tour of 7th Avenue’ was merely talking about the atmosphere of the streets and one of the factory’s interior. I selected the parts of the story which involve the descriptions of the street life and details of the spatial elements. I deciphered the story and tried to split it into sections according to the strongness of spatial descriptions. At the same time, I conducted historical research and looked for the visuals that show the earlier versions of the street life of the 7th Avenue and surrounding.
After collecting historical photos and videos that were taken around Garment Center, I tried to superpose these visuals with the places which are defined in the story. In the end, I decided to focus five critical spots at around 7th Avenue. A person should be at these specific spots in order to activate the Augmented Reality application and to engage with the narrative. By transforming historical photos into 2.5D graphs, I aimed to empower visual storytelling. When the text came together with these moving images, they were more successful to give a sense of the old street life. After I determined the path that I will suggest to the audiences, I made my first iteration at the site by using old photos printed in the transparent paper as a replication of AR experience. I also read the selected sections of the story at the site, while the visitor was looking at the spots through images. I recognized that the crowd and the traffic were distracting the audience to engage with the story. However, he captured some details from the story and then he claimed that he was able to relate those details to the actual space and they made him creating some connections with the past.
Exhibition and User Tests
At the end of the semester, we organized a showcase to share our final prototypes with audiences. I had a chance to test my prototype during exhibition day by imitating the streets of Garment District on the walls. The photos from the existing streets were triggering the AR stories when users were placing them in the photos. User tests showed that the final form of the project was successfully giving the main idea behind it. Some of the users mentioned that they were impressed by seeing the historical photos of an existing place on the top of its current version. On the other hand, some get annoyed by the slowness of the videos, and they said it would be great to see more action. Additionally, some others mentioned that it would be more effective if they were able to hear the story in the form of audio as well. All these feedbacks proved that AR can be a great platform for geolocational storytelling but requires a hard work for content development. If the content is not interesting enough to arouse user’s attention, the user can easily be distracted by environmental factors (like light, sound, movement, crowd etc.).
This project had four main phases: 1) Finding an interesting story to tell about Garment Center, 2) Delivering this story as a series of videos by an Augmented Reality application, 3) Developing a working technical prototype of the AR app by using Vuforia and Unity, 4) Testing the prototype with actual users. Because the time was very limited for this project (4-weeks in total), I had to accelerate first and second phases. During user tests, I realized users were having trouble to engage with the stories efficiently because of the size and speed of textual content. Additionally, some of the spots at Garment Center which I included in this experience were very chaotic, and this was affecting user experience badly. If I had more time, I would like to spend more time on the development of the AR storied and user-flow. Re-defining the AR story spots at Garment Center, using the combinations of visual, text and audio more efficiently in the videos, making more user tests in the place would be the next steps to take for improving this experience.