Augmented reality is defined as adding digital elements to the real and physical world (not full immersion from it- i.e. virtual reality), changing the experience, and making it more personal- accessible. Many forms of public engagement by museums, historical institutions, and other instances beyond the historical field all seem to converge on the matter of accessibility. The implications of accessibility include reframing information in a way that appeals to multiple learning styles, perspectives, and forms of education. Combining these efforts with technology and social media leads to augmented reality.
The game Tecumseh Lies Here developed and played at Public History program at the University of Western Ontario fits within this definition. But the immersion of the game for its developers and players went beyond that of common examples of AR- such as the app Snapchat or the mobile game Pokemon Go. With such deep story line complexities and efforts- those involved can only seem to report that in order to understand, “you had to be there.”
What makes this interesting, in my opinion, is that the ways the developers (professors and graduates) augmented history for the players were not technically advanced or sophisticated by any means. The websites and passwords undoubtedly took some tech savvy, but the way that social media, email, video, and texting were involved- anyone could develop content on those platforms with enough time. Many people use social media now, and those who have attended an academic institution have likely had to complete a video or two for an assignment, lesson, or other reason.
Therefore, the level of immersion, success, and satisfaction of Here Lies Tecumseh- provides an exemplary example of to what degree history can be augmented for accessibility without sophisticated technology and software. The primary problems show up with time, success, and feedback, and (ironically) demographic.
In Here Lies Tecumseh, classes, free time, and essentially lives were put on hold for over a month to develop, provide, and solve puzzles and problems. Surely, one reason this happened was because of the “doing history” purpose of the game, and the intricacies of mimicking historical work. And the only reason it worked was due to those involved- dedicated professors, paid graduates, and young adult players who mostly already identified as gamers. For the example of AR history, was is only so immersive because of the conditions outlined above? And can museums and other public history institutions hope to develop that level of immersion for the general public when that implies massive diversity?
If they use marketing segmentation techniques, I believe they could at least challenge the experience of Here Lies Tecumseh over time. Museums seeking to provide AR elements could gather demographic information on users and skew the AR elements toward the most prominent segment. If there was more than one major segment, they could develop and label different routes or experiences for users to choose from. This idea would certainly be a long-time project and likely constantly evolving, but it seems like one possibility in search of immersion through augmented reality.