Estonia’s third biggest easternmost city, Narva had a beautiful baroque style Old Town before WWII, that was almost fully destroyed after the war. Recent renewal of the nostalgia for the lost baroque city has created frictions between remembering and effacing the past in the actual cityscape. As Augmented Reality (AR) has become more popular in mediating Cultural Heritage sites, the need for new applications is an important research and development focus for MEDIT.
Since 2016, in collaboration with the Department of Media & Communication, University of Oslo, a proof-of-concept of a ‘sitsim’-type AR application, funded from the Cross Motion project. In a situated simulation (sitsim) two elements are linked: the user's visual perception of the real physical environment, and the user's visual perception of a 3D graphics environment as displayed on a hand-held screen. The design goal was to see if we could exploit the rules and conventions of the Hot & Cold game in order to create new and engaging forms of encounter with digitized historical photos of the Narva Town Hall square. In addition to this experimental design for a ‘Photo Positioning Puzzle’, the application includes a dynamic 3D–reconstruction of an historic city square, as well as historical photos.
Since 2018 MEDIT has been working on a 3D model of the Old Town of Narva and developing an augmented reality application that uses again the sitsim approach and introduces animated characters to explain some of the hidden layers and stories of Old Narva. Currently we have produced an early beta version of the prototype based on the funding from the Cross Motion project. But the work continues with the help from Pallas University of Applied Sciences in Tartu.
In Autumn 2019 MEDIT initiated a new related research project that aims to visualize Narva-related historical datasets from various archives using again mobile loction based augmented reality as the medium. In this project we are interested in representing the experience of inhabiting the place from the standpoint of a person, exploring the multi-layered city and creating learning paths of unique experiences. Locative mobile media combined with digital archives opens up the interpretative capacity of historical landscapes for creating new narratives and for experiencing simultaneously multiple interpretative semantic spaces.
The project that is financed by Nordplus programme will be using mainly open datasets. Our project will be carried out in collaboration with universities of Malmö, Oslo and Riseba, Estonian Academy of Arts, Open Knowledge Estonia, Narva Kreenholm and Narva municipality. We are also grateful to Fjodor Šantsõni, Narva chief architect Ivan Sergejev and Narva heritage official Madis Tuuder.
In the next phase of development we will be aiming to combine all the existing projects and work on a new solution - that uses the sitsim model, but integrates into it different data sources from Estonian heritage databases and enables participatory ways to create new experiences in exploring the Narva city in augmented reality.