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Wrangell AVATAR club 'augments' reality


Greg Knight

Stikine Middle School student Max Voltz shows off an augmentation of KSTK’s sign during his class period with teacher Michele Galla.

Sentinel writer

When you look at a website, a business card, or just about any sign or graphical image you can imagine, you can expect to see information. That information is usually one-dimensional and does not extend beyond what you might see with your own eyes.

A group of students from Wrangell High School are working to change that, however.

An after-school “AVATAR” club led by WHS teacher Michele Galla has been working on developing a technology that will “augment” the reality of images we see every day – and make them more functional in a digital environment.

AVATAR stands for “Audio Visual Applied Technology Augmented Reality.”

Galla described the augmentation as bringing the digital world into the real world.

“Augmentation is, basically, mixing real life objects with electronic ‘augments,’” she said. “An augment, for example, could be anything on the Internet. You can add a link to any site on the web and can have audio, visual, contact forms, phones numbers and email addresses by pressing a button on the augmented image.”

The process of augmenting an image begins with snapping a photograph of it using an Apple or Android platform smart phone or other digital device such as a tablet. The image is photographed using an application called Layar. The app provides a method of viewing digital information that has been superimposed over a view of an image or the real-world environment.

Once the image is loaded into Layar, information that is to be superimposed is placed on the image in the form of interactive buttons that then send the user to their respective links on the web or elsewhere.

“The company donated the system for us to use and they are the largest company in the world doing this,” Galla added.

The students who are part of the club have so far completed augmentation projects for City Hall, Wrangell Medical Center, KSTK FM, the Irene Ingle Public Library, Wrangell Parks and Recreation, Wrangell Volunteer Fire Department, the Stikine Birding Festival, BearFest, Wrangell Chamber of Commerce, the Wrangell Sentinel, and the Wrangell Convention and Visitors Bureau. Fifteen additional community organizations are currently on the drawing board for the club to augment.

One student that is highly involved in the club is Stikine Middle School seventh-grader Max Voltz. His work has included the Wrangell Sentinel’s masthead augmentation, which he completed with fellow student Sig Decker, as well as KSTK and others. He described what the finished product could look like.

“It’s a really cool way to put buttons or apps onto any image which is out in the real world,” he said. “You can have as many as you want and put them in any order you want them in.”

The club is also competitive amongst themselves, working with a point system that entitles the students to earn prizes for the work they have completed. With a total of nearly 80 points earned, Voltz stands at the head of the pack in augmenting for the club.

For more information on the club and their augmentation

program, go to http://www.avatar.akschools.net.


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