Augmented Reality


Whether your reaction to this growing phenomenon be fear or excitement, it is important to remember that while it seems fantastic, humans have been engaging in acts that created layering in our world for a very long time. Think for example of masonic symbols, which were used to teach morals and lessons.  Freemason symbols date back to the ancient Sumerians circa 3000 B.C., and were originally developed because much of the world was illiterate. Thanks to advances in public education, much of the world is now literate, yet masonic symbols persist.

Hidden in Plain Sight

For example, if you look on the back of an American one dollar bill you will see an eye enclosed in a triangle, floating over a pyramid. On one level this is just what it appears to be, but if you know this history behind that symbol you will understand that it is actually a masonic symbol known as an, “eye of providence.” The eye of providence is said to represent the all-seeing eye of God watching over mankind.

Symbols like this can be considered AR because they have multiple layers. An individual can go beyond the surface layer of understanding if they have the right tools, in this case knowledge.

A more contemporary type of AR comes from a practice known as, “geocaching,” which originated in the Pacific northwest of the United States. Geocaching is a kind of treasure hunt. Since its start in 2000, millions of geocaches have been hidden world wide. They come in a variety of sizes, ranging from tiny to large, and are hidden in both urban and rural environments. To create a geocache, a person need only hide the cache with a log in a protected container and then report the coordinates on a geocaching website. People interested in finding geocaches visit the sites and retrieve the coordinates for their area. Geocaches are usually hidden in places people frequent like trails, pubic parks, or even airports. Geocaches can be considered a form of AR because usually only those “in the know,” who have the coordinates, are aware that anything is hidden in plain sight.

Practical Applications

One practical application for AR is to use it as a way to provide a virtual “tour” of an organization or place. Below you will find a virtual tour of the small town of Placitas, NM. According to the office of the NM State Historian, this small area was originally settled in 1765 under the name San Jose de las Huertes. Around 1840, the present village of Placitas was established, however there are still families whose presence dates back to the original settlement.

To access the AR for these images, follow me on Aurasma at crosestice.

Here is a map of the original settlement:

(Links to a site published by the New Mexico State Historian.)

In 1840 the San Antonio Mission was built. It is located in the heart of the original Placitas village and is still a part of community life.

(Links to a painting of the mission.)

Today Placitas is part of Sandoval Country in the state of NM, and has a population of around 5,000 people. It is a “rural” area within easy driving distance to both Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

(Links to a video introduction to Placitas.)

Residents of Placitas are fortunate to be surrounded by public lands, both national park service and BLM, that can be used for recreational activities like running, hiking, and mountain biking.

(Links to a video of a mountain biker)

All this open space means that residents share their home with a variety of wildlife. Among the most apparent are wild horses who are believed to be descended from wild mustangs. Although some have been adopted by residents and others have been relocated, the wild horses have free range of the entire community.

(Links to a video of wild horses.)

Placitas is also home to large predators including coyotes, mountain lions, and bobcats. The bobcats are a particular favorite as they seem unfazed by living closely with humans, doing things like climbing on house roofs and even having kittens in the yard. Bobcats are also appreciated because they do not generally prey upon pets aside from the occasional chicken.

(Links to video of bobcat kittens.)

The people who call Placitas home are their own wild sort. They are activists, artists, freethinkers, and entrepreneurs. Placitas has been the home ground for more than one successful business. One local company, Anna & Eve produces creative, high quality baby products.

 (Links to company video.)

The Placitas Cafe is a local meeting place with great New Mexican food, a fun atmosphere, and regular performances by local musicians.

(Links to pictures of food.)

In keeping with New Mexico tradition, the Placitas art scene is very vibrant. The biannual arts and crafts sales draw close to 300 local artists. The work from many of them can be seen at the Hoot Art Gallery.

 (Links to pictures of art.)

If you are looking for a taste of New Mexico, come visit Placitas: a great place to learn, explore, and create!


Working is AR can be challenging for a novice learner. The program Aurasma is user friendly and has a comprehensive free version. However, it took me some time to figure out how to work with videos in particular.

My original plan was to record videos with community members for each of my auras. However, scheduling conflicts made that an unreliable option. My trial aura was just a picture of a tea bag overlayed with a short video of myself speaking. It worked perfectly since I had the entire video saved on my computer. I did not have as much luck when I tried to embed videos from YouTube.

After several failures, I did some research are discovered a program called KeepVid that I was able to use, for a trial period, to download and save videos from YouTube. This made things much easier. I can’t completely speak to the safety of this program, but my research didn’t reveal any big warning signs. If I were to do AR more regularly or seriously, I would just buy the KeepVid program, as it was very easy to use.

As I was finishing up my AR project I took some time to review what my classmates had done and I realized that I was only using Aurasma partially. Reading the posts of others I saw that I could also create auras that linked to external sites, showed overlayed pictures, and played audio. I tried to incorporate some of these additional options into my project, except for the audio, which I would like to try in the future.

I feel fairly comfortable using Aurasma now and could see applying it to a class project. There are still things I don’t know about it, however. For example, one of my classmates was able to use it to link directly to the YouTube videos rather than having to download them. I haven’t tried to do that yet, but would be interested in exploring it in the future.

About The Author

6 thoughts on “Augmented Reality

  1. Carolyn,

    I like at the outset that you look for precursors for AR I ended up at that point in my thinking. What I find is that where we end usually is where we should be starting our inquiry and research so good for you on starting there first.

    Second, this is an enormous and ambitious project so good for you going big. I like that your story is fully developed and offers us a very nice introduction to Placitas, New Mexico. A risk of course in going big is then having to deliver on all of those triggers. Since a big part of this assignment is the deconstruction, maybe selecting a few of the images to run through Aurasma studio would suffice and you can shift your focus to what you learned in that process and how you did the work.

  2. I love the thoughtful introduction to your post. I’ve never really considered the idea of AR as symbolism, but your comparison to Masonic (and other) symbols that provide meaning beyond the literal–at least to those in the know–is intriguing and one that I’d like to think about more. I also like the way you tied that symbolism to the “need to know” factor of AR. While QR codes announce their presence with a standard symbol, AR does not–at least not yet–and that makes accessibility an issue.

    All of your trigger images worked perfectly for me. I love the inclusion of a verbal description under each image. It reinforces what we might expect to see once we acquire the trigger image. In that sense, I think it would be very helpful to include your subscription information (crosestice) and a short explanation of how to access your auras in the Practical Applications section for readers who might come across your post not having seen your disclosure of this information in our Google+ community.

    The piece I see missing here is the deconstruction of the process you went through to conceive of and create your post. Aurasma is new to most of the cohort, and any insights or questions you have would benefit us all.

    1. So that is very interesting. I could not get any of the triggers to work which is why I thought you were still working on the project. I tried to search for uafstice in Aurasma, and I doubled back to the website to see if the cohort page had your Aurasma username (which Skip includes above, crosestice). I’ll follow you now and very probably the triggers will cheerfully impart information to me.

  3. As someone who refers to herself as “passionate about primary sources,” I love the direction you took with your introduction to this post for two reasons. First, and the more obviously tangible of the two, is your exposition on the historical use of symbols to teach meaning/share information beyond what is explicitly stated or shown…in many ways the concept behind augmented reality. Second, is your concept of hidden meaning. Although I’m still developing my thoughts on the matter, I find that I’m fascinated with the idea of hidden meaning and subtext. From a historical perspective, much of history lives in the subtext of the story we know (in the sense that many individual’s voices are intentionally excluded, marginalized, etc…). The subtext, beyond an intentional exclusion, could also be the voice/experience of the individual, which is often unintentionally overpowered by that of the collective. Yet, it is in the subtext (perhaps our personal story or that of our family) in which we find the most meaning. Fascinating stuff, really!

    As to your choice to augment the history and experience of living in a location, we are on the same page with the use of AR. It seems to be most effectively used (currently) to supplement individuals’ information when they would be in a position to seek it out…where better to find this information-seeking than when they are visiting a new location?

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