Chinatown Audio Walk

Today I spent my morning wandering the streets of Chinatown listening to Jamie Gong’s audio walk. Overall it was a really enriching experience. Somehow it managed to blend content and reality to produce a kind of early era augmented reality.

This alley was also known as ‘The Bloody Angle.’ Coincidentally, Bloody Angle is the name of my emo cover band.

For me, the best parts of the experience, were actually seeing the remains of locations and features that have since disappeared. The luncheonette where the tour begins is now a vacant storefront. Doyers Street is just a small street that isn’t bloody at all. The opium den was nowhere to be found. To be in the place and hear how it used to be at one point in time, though, gave me the most compelling form of “time-travel” that I have ever experienced.

A bizarre juxtaposition posed by an ad the claims “China isn’t real” in a part of the US that is a realistic facsimile of China.

Understanding the way this audio track manages to do this could be one of the keys to making compelling augmented reality content. There were many times while I was performing the tasks being narrated that I couldn’t distinguish the audio track from the actual sounds of the street; while effective, this was somewhat redundant. Augmented reality needs compliment what sits before one’s eyes. Many other instances along the tour had a similar effect through the use of site specific music or carefully mixed interviews.

The final touch, of course, was making sure I managed to grab something delicious to eat before I left. All five senses fully engaged.

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