MGoView uses augmented reality to celebrate Bicentennial

Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 9:10pm

During the Bicentennial celebrations, students, staff and alumni caught a glimpse into the University of Michigan's past quite literally with the augmented reality application MGoView. The app’s users toured 30 historic sites around campus, spotting flying cars, woolly mammoths and even former President John F. Kennedy.

MGoView's project manager, Evan Hoye, described the way in which the application, released in May 2017, relates to the Bicentennial.

“The University is looking toward its third century as it discusses the past two,” he explained.

MGoView offers users detailed historical tours of the University while incorporating cutting-edge technology.

“(The) goal was to focus on the future and to look at what’s on these borderlands of technology and how we can bring that to a mainstream audience. AR and VR is what is burgeoning right now in the tech industry,” he explained.

All this came in the form of the application MGoView, which also acts as a game where players who collect badges by visiting all the sites can take selfies with historical figures.

MGoView was the brainchild of the School of Information’s department of Marketing and Communications, spearheaded by Heather Newman.

According to Newman, the project, which was the Information School’s Bicentennial birthday gift to the University, began three years ago. Most of the development work was done in 2016 and 2017 by associate Information School professor Paul Conway, then-graduate student Scott Kirycki and project manager Evan Hoye.

“With the Bicentennial year approaching, the school wanted a unique blockbuster way to contribute to the school’s 200th anniversary,” Hoye explained.

The Information School collaborated heavily with historical archives across campus, which Kirycki used to gather audiovisual data. According to Kirycki, the 30 sites featured in the app were ones that had abundant audiovisual archives and told “stories that may have otherwise been hidden away in the archives.”

Moreover, the stories told through the app reflect the themes of the Bicentennial: serving the people, pursuing ideas, creating and discovering, teaching powerfully, challenging society, and forever hailing.

One such story is Ida Gray’s, Kirycki explained. Gray was the first African-American woman to graduate from dental school, and was part of the University’s class of 1890. Her story, which can be experienced virtually outside the School of Dentistry, is one of many that demonstrate the University’s dedication to challenging society and teaching powerfully.

“The storytelling aspect of the app is something that has been really magnetic in a way that I hadn’t quite expected it to be, in that I thought the biggest draws to the app would be the 3D artifacts at the cube, or the woolly mammoths or the flying car,” Conway said. “Individuals who have been directly touched by the University would want to know, not just what’s cool about the app, but also what personal stake they could find in it.”

As of now, MGoView has been downloaded over 3,000 times and saw a threefold increase in downloads during the Bicentennial festivities on Oct. 26. Despite the rain and wind, students and alumni walked around campus, exploring the University’s history and technological future.

“There’s something about being able to stand at a site holding the history in your hand but also looking at it in the present that I think was able to connect the past and present for the users,” Kirycki said.

Looking forward, Kirycki and Hoye believe that augmented reality, along with other technology, will continue to engage and “add another dimension” to archives and events.