BENGALURU: In another fortnight, you can point your phone at the St Mark’s Cathedral, Mayo Hall, Oriental Building or East Parade Church to access stories of its past. You can also share personal anecdotes or trivia about the structure with others through an online network.
FlippAR, an augmented reality (AR) platform, is launching a heritage trail that will help people access pictures, timelines, videos and audio dating back to when MG Road was known as South Parade.
The free mobile application scans structures, uses image and object recognition and matches real-time photos with the database to display information. “Built heritage content connects the past to the present but there are so many things about a structure that we don’t know about,” said FlippAR founder Vivek Jain, who has launched similar experiences at Cubbon Park and Lalbagh.
Unlike MG Road, both green spaces have yellow signages on the road where one can stand and click images. “People can add their stories on the app, share it publicly or tag friends through Facebook. It is a social network around real-world objects that takes nostalgia to the next level,” Jain said.
A handful of initiatives in Bengaluru are using AR to get people – especially gadget-savvy youngsters – interested in heritage and understand the importance of holding on to our collective past while stepping into a high-tech future.
Timescape Bengaluru is an AR-based app being developed by Rachel Lee and Anne-Katrin Fenk, urban architects from Germany , who spent five weeks here in 2016, scanning ar chives, geo-referencing photos, conducting interviews, selecting historical locations and testing the app.
According to the duo, the IT city’s large migrant population should be sensitised about its history , and such innovations increase people’s interactions with heritage on a day-to-day basis. This, in turn, would enable participative conservation efforts. While Lee and Fenk are seeking funds to scale up their project, Jain has received a Rs 5-lakh grant from the state tourism department, which has funded eight startups with Rs 2.5 crore to improve tourism around heritage sites, food trails and sports activities through technology.
“The focus now is to get historians and travel bloggers to curate content and build database,” said Jain, who believes that entry of global giants like Google, Facebook and Apple into the AR space will pave way for more mainstream open data. That said, AR in India is nascent and the output quality is still dependent on how high-end one’s device is, said Arvind Sivdas, co-founder of Sparrowz, a tech startup. The app has created digital heritage walks and quests around multiple heritage sites and has now collaborated with Nandi Valley Walks to design AR-based activities around Nandi Hills.
“Platforms like ours are just the first step to help people engage with heritage deeply and differently,” he said. “User-generated content is important because there are not many pre-existing digital libraries or archives to build on.Markets and support systems will only evolve with time.”