Seeing the Past with Computers

KeeCompeau_CoverRecent developments in computer technology are providing historians with new ways to see (and perhaps hear, touch, or even smell) traces of the past. These tools and techniques are providing fresh insights and discoveries as well as a new medium for historians to teach and share their knowledge in excitingly innovative and even subversive ways.

Seeing the Past with Computers: Experiments with Augmented Reality and Computer Vision for History is a unique collection of twelve essays that explore the current and potential uses of augmented reality (AR) and computer vision (CV), in historical research, teaching, and presentation.

Augmented reality, once the esoteric pursuit of engineers and computer scientists, has entered the mainstream with smartphones, tablets, popular games, and even wearable computers. Place-based AR applications are an increasingly common feature at heritage sites and museums, and with the improved registering technology made possible by seeing computers, historians can create immersive and multi-faceted learning experiences.

Computer vision, which is also used in many AR applications, has been employed in a variety of endeavors from industrial production to the security sector. This technology that helps us see the present, is now being directed at past. Research involving thousands of images can now be undertaken to recreate lost or destroyed environments, objects, or discern patterns in vast data sets missed by the naked eye.

Among the varied and often experimental topics explored by the scholars in this book are the use of augmented reality that empowers students to challenge their textbooks; the application of seeing computers to unlock the secrets of Vaudevillian stage magic or the evolution of electronics; hacking facial recognition technology to reveal victims of racism in a century-old Australian archive; and using aural augmented reality to rebuild the soundscape of an iron age village.

Seeing the Past with Computers is the first book to explore uses of augmented reality and computer vision for historical research and presentation. The experts gathered here reflect upon their experiences working with these new technologies, share their knowledge and ideas for best practices, and engage in a theoretical discussion on the implications and future possibilities of augmented reality and computer vision for the study of history.

Thanks to the generous support of the University of Ottawa, the book is available as an open access edition from the University of Michigan Press. 

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