New augmented reality tour tells story of Monument Avenue

Posted at 12:18 PM, Dec 03, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- Augmented reality or AR as it's commonly referred to is an interactive experience that lays digital content in a physical world right before your very eyes.

Now a local company is using the technology to guide users through some of Richmond’s most well-known landmarks on its most famous street, Monument Avenue.

“In terms of wearable AR, this is the only place in the country where you can find this application of this technology to the Confederate monuments controversy,” said Greg Werkheiser, co-founder and CEO of ARtGlass.

The Richmond based company uses augmented reality along with audio for a new tour about Monument Avenue’s history. The company provides historic tours for over 50 sites across the globe, but this is his first in Richmond.

“We design augmented reality software that allows you to put on transparent smart glasses and walk around and see layered over your view of the real-world landscape all kinds of digital magic. The technology acts like a time machine. It takes you from the present, back to the past, and then back to the present again,” said Werkheiser.

The tour is conducted by Lexi Cleveland, who is also a public historian, and Vice President of Client Services of ARtGlass who leads the development of the project. Here’s what she says people can expect in this unique experience:

"They’re going to look at the monument and all they do is press and hold a button, that’ll start the content. Different stops will have different content. Some of them have 360 surround so you have to look around and see everything. Some things have billboards in place in various locations. Some things are front on,” said Cleveland.

The tours last about 90 minutes and are being offered for free. That’s because both Werkheiser and Cleveland say this was a way to give back, but more importantly they hope after the experience will help the city move forward.

“The story of Monument Avenue is not finished. It’s evolving and the communities that have Confederate monuments are in the midst of a very serious conversation and we want that to be fact based,” said Werkheiser.

“We’re all neighbors so that human element of being able to have a conversation with your neighbors is important because then you can ask questions and have conversations instead of just seeing some content and saying well where do I go from here, I still have questions.”

Some of things you'll be able to see in the AR tour include stereograph photos that are over 150 years old -- showing the devastation of Richmond after Confederates burned it on their retreat as well as removal of the monuments that were taken down this past summer.

If you are interested in taking a tour just, click here.

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