The vanished history of black people in Boston is visible again to anybody with a smartphone, thanks to Arizona State University journalism professor Retha Hill. Her free “augmented reality’’ Black History app offers a video tour of the city’s African-American history.
Augmented reality systems superimpose digital information onto the real world. When viewing the world through a video screen, augmented reality software, known as AR, adds extra data to the image. Football fans, for example, know the yellow first-down line that appears in televised games. It’s not really there, but digitally painted on the screen. That’s AR for you.
But for Hill, AR is a sophisticated learning tool, one accessible to anyone with an Apple iPhone, a handset using Google Inc.’s Android software, or an Ovi phone from Finland’s Nokia. Her Black History program displays historical notes and asides that appear on the phone’s display when the user comes within range of a significant site. Just launch the software, and take a stroll through Boston with one eye on the phone’s screen. If you’re near any of the two dozen or so landmarks featured in the program, you’ll soon get an education.