Exploring Boston’s past via an AR time machine.
If you are familiar with Boston, then you know all about the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, a stunning strip of land filled with beautiful gardens, promenades, plazas, and fountains that takes you through multiple Boston neighborhoods, from Chinatown all the way to Boston’s North End.
Thanks to an incredible partnership between the Greenway Conservancy, Hoverlay and Boston Cyberarts as part of the Conservancy’s 2019 Public Art exhibition, The Auto Show, the Greenway is now one of North America’s largest AR art installations.
Using the free Hoverlay app, visitors can walk the pathway will come across floating spinning cubes placed in specific locations on the Greenway. Each cube gives you instructions on how to unlock the AR experiences hidden within the pathway.
Each location delivers a unique AR experience depending on where you are on the Greenway.
In an interview with VRScout, Nicolas Robbe, Chief Executive Officer and co-found of Hoverlay talked about the Greenway project saying, “This project really started as a public art project, led by Lucas Cowan the art director for the Rose Kennedy Greenway,” adding, “His vision was to use AR to bring a view of the future and a view of the past to the public.”
To do this, Cowan turned to Nancy Baker Cahill, John Craig Freeman, and Will Pappenheimer—three AR artists from a prominent AR artist collective called Boston Cyberarts—along with historian Amy Finstein, to transform the Greenway into a treasure hunt of AR imagery that explores the past, present, and future through old photos and audio narratives about the area you are in, as well as contemporary AR art that you can walk around inside.
The goal of the exhibit is to merge historical and contemporary images onto our everyday reality, creating a new dimension for visitors to experience by allowing them to explore the environment in an intuitive new way.
The historic photographs shown within the AR exhibit narrate more than a century of growth and change along the Greenway. Each image captures the city’s changing economic prospects, its accommodations for new modes of transportation, and its embrace of city planning and modern engineering to address successive eras of challenges.
Sheila Novak, the public art manager for the Rose Kennedy Greenway told Boston’s WBZ-TV, “It is a totally different kind of experience. There’s a lot of beauty in augmented reality as an art form,” Novak continues, “Visitors will be able to engage with new ideas throughout a mile-and-a-half long augmented reality experience.”
Visitor reaction has been wonderfully positive. The mile and half art project blends the history of Boston, the lush greenery of the Greenway path, and AR technology into a stunning immersive experience that promises to expand the minds of its visitor’s as they unlock the different AR experiences. “It opens your mind to a whole new world just below the surface,” said Robbe.
As for the future of AR and public spaces, the team at Hoverlay sees AR tech as a brand-new way to connect with the public, tell powerful stories, create new perspectives, drive a sense of connection with what is around them, and provide on-the-spot actions.
In total, there are 16 AR installations along the Rose Kennedy Greenway. To experience all of them, you’ll have to take a trip to Boston, download the Hoverly app to your Apple or Android device, tune into the TheGreenWay AR channel on the app, and start exploring.
The AR exhibit will be available for the next 6 months.