Augmenting the senses: Sound

The most common form of Augmented Reality is that of sound or audio. This is where a sound is played, or augmented, over the sound you are hearing naturally. Normally this is achieved by having a handheld audio device where you key in numbers that correspond with numbers on presentation boards around the site. Otherwise, this can be achieved by having an audio track that is downloadable to an ipod/MP3, or on a mobile device.

Me looking very fetching with a handheld audio guide

Me looking very fetching with a handheld audio guide. Photo by Caroline Baker (2012)

An example of Augmented Reality mobile applications in York is the audio tours by the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP). Part of the University of York, IPUP has produced three audio tours for York.

For my dissertation I have studied the York in the First World War Tour. Aimed at people who want to gain a deeper insight into York’s efforts in the WW1, it is a good app for gaining information. The stops are quite long and a have a single narrator, however, the depth and quality of content are really interesting. I learnt everything from what it was like to live on Walmgate to how Arnold Stephenson Rowntree helped the cause of conscientious objectors.

Although, augmenting sound can be seen as a fairly simple and straightforward form of Augmented Reality, done well it can be really effective. That being said, I’m sure there’s been quite a few audio tours that you wish you hadn’t listened to over the years too.

So, just like a movie soundtrack to your life, augmented reality applications can narrate sites in a way traditional signs just never could.

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