There is a growing interest in the development and deployment of surveillance systems in public and private locations. Conventional approaches rely on the installation of wide area CCTV (Closed Circuit Television), but the explosion in the numbers of cameras that have to be monitored, the increasing costs of providing monitoring personnel and the limitations that humans have to maintain sustained levels of concentration severely limit the effectiveness of these systems. Advances in information and communication technologies, such as computer vision for face recognition and human behaviour analysis, digital annotation and storage of video, transmission of video/audio streams over wired and wireless networks, can potentially provide significant improvements in this field.
Recent developments in computer technology are providing historians with new ways to see—and seek to hear, touch, or smell—traces of the past. Place-based augmented reality applications are an increasingly common feature at heritage sites and museums, allowing historians to create immersive, multifaceted learning experiences. Now that computer vision can be directed at the past, research involving thousands of images can recreate lost or destroyed objects or environments, and discern patterns in vast datasets that could not be perceived by the naked eye.
Seeing the Past with Computers is a collection of twelve thought-pieces on the current and potential uses of augmented reality and computer vision in historical research, teaching, and presentation. The experts gathered here reflect upon their experiences working with new technologies, share their ideas for best practices, and assess the implications of—and imagine future possibilities for—new methods of historical study. Among the experimental topics they explore are the use of augmented reality that empowers students to challenge the presentation of historical material in their textbooks; the application of seeing computers to unlock unusual cultural knowledge, such as the secrets of vaudevillian stage magic; hacking facial recognition technology to reveal victims of racism in a century-old Australian archive; and rebuilding the soundscape of an Iron Age village with aural augmented reality.
This volume is a valuable resource for scholars and students of history and the digital humanities more broadly. It will inspire them to apply innovative methods to open new paths for conducting and sharing their own research.