Lewisham Libraries: Augmenting Reality on People’s Day

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There was a queue of young boys outside the Lewisham Library tent at People’s Day, the annual free festival for Lewisham residents held in Mountsfield Park, Hither Green.

They were all waiting to try the Oculus Rift headsets brought by the library service’s partner, Augmented Reality specialists Amplified Robot.

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(Image: Lewisham Library Service)

Inside the tent, people were gazing at the ‘People’s Patchwork’ made up of patches that each expressed how the maker felt about Lewisham.

It was a thing of beauty by itself, but several people were holding up their phones and scanning the patches using a special app developed by Amplified Robot. When they did this, an image specially selected from Lewisham Archive appeared in the place where the patch had been.

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It wasn’t what people were expecting from the library tent – least of all the Mayor of Lewisham Council who was treated to a virtual reality rollercoaster ride.

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(Image: Lewisham Library Service)

But it is all part of Lewisham Library Service’s work to change people’s perceptions of the library service and make it a place where you can go to experience the latest technology as well as to borrow books, use the internet, do homework or participate in crafting and storytelling activities.

What I loved about the digitally enhanced experience Lewisham Libraries offered on people’s day is that it took place in a tent, with bunting strung up and a blackboard outside announcing Oculus Rift alongside story time. There were cardboard robots to make with push pins and Pritt Stick and a corner for story time alongside the latest technology. And the tech itself mainly relied on people’s own smart devices rather than requiring lots of infrastructure in order to work.

I also loved that Amplified Robot gave their expertise, time and kit on a pro bono basis – in return they got lots of feedback on how the public interact with immersive and augmented realities which can help their own product development. And they are building a long term partnership with the library service. Hurray!

(Cover image: Lewisham Library Service)

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