Hello! We're Vivian, Isaac, Joel, and Cole and we're super excited to get started with the AR project at Chavin de Huantar.
For some background information, the project was born out of conversations between Professor John Rick, professor of archaeology at Stanford University and undergraduate students from both the field school program and ESW (Engineers for a sustainable world). During one of the first few days of the field school, Professor Rick was giving us a tour of the site when we arrived at the main monument.
Around the 17th or 18th century AD, he described, the facade of the main temple at Chavin de Huantar was destroyed when looters broke into the temple, leaving a gaping hole. This presents an interesting conservation challenge. Leave the temple as is, and visitors will believe that the more modern beams and roofing preserving the structural integrity of the temple were part of the original architecture. Removing the structures and repairing the facade is another solution, but this is expensive and not true to the original.
We realized with the rise of augmented and virtual reality technologies, there is a unique opportunity for sustainable, affordable solutions to conservation - creating an application in augmented reality to showcase a virtual reconstruction of the facade. Thus kickstarted the Chavin de Huantar AR project. Last week, the team had our first partner meeting with Professor Rick, where we reaffirmed the possibilities of AR as a means of augmenting the site for visitors, as well as bringing media attention and therefore more funding to the site. We also discussed what we would like to see in the app, focusing first on the reconstruction of the temple and having stretch goals in mind of other interactive elements and underground tunnel systems not visible to visitors.
Since the AR project is so new, during these first few weeks our team is primarily doing research. So far, we have looked at apps such as sky view, snapchat, history traveller, and YouVisit as part of our design assessment. Most notably, studying these apps brought up the issue of marker-based vs location-based AR, or placing objects based on what the camera picked up vs gps location. Since gps location isn’t as reliable at the site, we are deciding to focus on using markers, starting with the monument itself as a marker.
Finally, looking into development options, we found that the Vuforia Unity plugin was the most well-documented AR SDK, and works with android, which most users in Peru use. However, while it is free to develop on, publishing costs $500 a year. This is a significant challenge, but since we are just starting out, we have decided to develop a rough prototype on Vuforia fist, keep it as an option on the budget, but look into other options for development and publishing once we build our skills up. We are focusing these next few weeks on learning Vuforia and building rough prototypes, so look forward to hearing from us soon about new developments!