Jan 19 2018
Why would a historian be interested in helping build an Augmented Reality app? His answers demonstrate not only his love for the subject to which he has devoted his life; but also a willingness to accept how new technologies can enhance our understanding of events.
How do you see this project in the context of other historical accounts of the Alamo?
This is, of course, a unique project. It allows the viewer to “resurrect” the history at will–to call up the fort’s defenders and watch them in action, or to summon the Mexican soldados as they besiege or attack them. You can enter the Alamo church and walk up its wooden ramp to the cavalier gun position, or visit Jim Bowie in his south barracks sick room, or report to Colonel Travis in his west wall headquarters room. All this has never been done before.
How important is it that the history is accurate?
Accuracy is always a tough challenge, especially in the case of the Alamo, because the historical record is generally thin, contradictory, and confusing. And the story is suffused with myths that die hard because they’ve become part of the popular, universal consciousness. There are also partisan, and often political, viewpoints that muddy the waters, unfortunately. But true History can be much more exciting than myth or propaganda, and in the case of the Alamo “new” facts continue to be uncovered by scholars who strive long and hard to find them. In the process we learn that the Alamo was a very human story, and not as simple or easily explained as nineteenth and twentieth century traditions have handed down to us.
As an historian, what drew you to participate in this project?
The opportunity to help create a more realistic Alamo, via the cutting-edge parameters of twenty-first century digital technology and Virtual Reality, and thus to provide viewers with both historical and visual perspectives–and in this case, the word “perspectives” is used literally–never before seen in the subject.
You’ve studied the Alamo most of your professional life, what makes this different?
As a historical artist who has often recreated the Alamo compound in paint and ink, there have been many times I wished I could inject myself into the fort, in a human size relating to the actual conditions, to get a better understanding of things from selected vantage points. And what Imagine Virtua has achieved is just that.
One can now see the true extent of the walls from any position, and how vast a space it really was. By being able to look at other points in the fort while inside the fort, you see how, militarily, attempting to defend it with 189 instead of 1,000 men was a foredoomed venture. By being able to travel up cannon ramps, look over the walls, enter the buildings, and so on, the effect is truly ‘You Are There.’ I would indeed call that different!
What is the most exciting aspect of this project for you?
The medium’s ability to travel anywhere within and without the recreated Alamo compound, from any position high or low, and at any angle. It “puts” you there as never before. There have been many Alamo models, as well as reconstructions of the fort for motion pictures, but never anything so accurate–nor so physically immediate and flexible when it comes to virtually injecting yourself into the place and time.
Do you see this changing the way future generations learn history?
Visual teaching aids are paramount in making history come alive, but what Imagine Virtua has done is something truly revolutionary, since it can also be applied to reconstructing any event, period or place, ancient or modern, with the added bonus that the viewer can essentially jump into the recreation and imagine him-or- herself as a participant. For students, scholars, and the public in general, the value of such a medium as both a learning and entertainment tool is limitless.
Jan 17 2018
Augmented reality is the integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time. Most people confuse augmented reality with virtual reality. Virtual reality, creates a totally artificial environment, and to be in that environment, the user is required to strap a device to their face. Augmented reality, in contrast, uses the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it, and you can access that information via your mobile smart device without a headset.
In AR, computer generated images (CGI) and animations overlay onto camera-captured video in such a way that the CGI objects appear to have an absolute location in the real world.
AR’s Use Case for Education
AR made a big splash when Pokemon Go was introduced. And since then, the AR applications with the most buzz have been games. Although some parents might think of Augmented or Virtual Reality as just another way to play a game, many educators already understand the power of this technology. The ability to map images and information onto the physical world is very exciting, and they can envision or have seen its application in the classroom. But quite a bit of the conversation around this medium has focused on its ability to assist with science class: See beneath the skin! Learn the structure of atoms! Watch a volcano erupt! Very few applications have been introduced for use in a social sciences class.
History teachers face a unique challenge. Unlike other subjects, the content is not tangible and teachers have to work very hard to create interactive learning opportunities. The historical figures you are talking about are long dead, the lives they led are somewhat hard for kids to relate to, and buildings where key events took place may have changed drastically. Even if you visit an historic location, it is hard to convey the gravity and the significance of the event.
But what if the student could see events unfold as if they were there: in the middle of the battle, or holed up during the siege? This isn’t similar to watching a movie, because the student is “in” the story, where the story happened. For instance, imagine a student standing outside the main building of the Alamo holding up a mobile device to watch Sarah, the freed slave, help defend the 18-pound cannon, then lose her life. Or entering a portal into the room where James Bowie was deathly ill with what was described as Typhoid Pneumonia. What if they could “fly over” the entire scene and watch the battle unfold from the bird’s eye view? Would that change their perspective? Would it enhance their retention and understanding of the material?
Augmented reality is compelling and captivating in a way that a plaque on the ground, or a pencil drawing of a war hero just can not match.
“This combination holds astonishing promise for education and entertainment as it brings history to life. This is particularly important for connecting with younger generations who desire a highly visual and engaging form of storytelling.” Chipp Walters, CEO, Altuit
Travel back in time with us. We know it will be fun… but you just might learn something along the way.
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Jan 15 2018
There are aspects of the Alamo Story that remain somewhat of a mystery
The scene opens from above the southwest emplacement. We see bodies scattered around the 18-pounder. And in the center, we see the lifeless body of a woman, her finger barely touching the hand of another victim. The camera drifts into the scene, isolating her upper body and face now calm in death. As the narrator expands the story to describe Herndon and Sarah, the scene changes into a ghosted tableau showing a woman as she serves the artillery piece during combat.
Who was she, the mystery woman found among the dead? History suggests, she died, fighting. But that raises another question: why would she fight alongside the men? Most of the women had gathered for protection inside the Alamo chapel. Most significant of all: the dead woman was African-American. Why would she die, fighting for a Texas that embraced slavery? Her lifeless body raises questions that live-on more than 160-years later. After the battle, her remains were discovered by a slave, a young man known only as Joe. He and other African Americans had been spared by the Mexican army. Santa Anna was not at war with the Texian slaves. Only the rebels who owned the slaves. So the mystery of the dead woman remains just that. She was obviously brave. She was also unknown. Then again, maybe not.