ARchive LAPL iOS app launches

ARchive LAPL logo

I am extremely excited to announce that my AR Storytelling + Journalism class’ app has launched and is ready for download from the Apple app store.

My Fall 2013 class worked on a semester-long project to augment the Los Angeles Public Library’s Central Branch in downtown Los Angeles. They created a diverse set of experiences ranging from telling the story of the arson fire to augmenting art to unlocking the library’s special collections via 3D models and galleries.

The first draft of our AR experiences was produced using metaio’s Creator platform, where we published a “channel” on their Junaio app.

But, in partnership with the design firm Neon Roots, we translated our “channel” into a stand-alone iOS app.

Neon Roots did a fantastic job designing and producing the now available app based on our content and guidance throughout the process. Neon Roots also gamified our content adding some incredible touches and designs.


Visual markers (to trigger experiences if not at the library):

More about the app:

A USC Annenberg produced video about our #ARJournalism course.

We asked the staff from the Los Angeles Public Library Central Branch to test out AR experiences created for ARchive LAPL. Here’s a video of the testing, produced by bc “heavy” biermann.

Beta test our AR experiences: ARchive LAPL


We’re in Phase 2 of beta testing for ARchive LAPL, our AR project to augment the historic, downtown Los Angeles Public Library.

We encourage you to test it out too and give us feedback! Here’s what you do:

Step one:
Download the Junaio app, launch and scan the QR code in the lower, righthand corner to activate our channel.

NOTE: You’ll hear a chime and our logo appear in the upper, left corner: image


Step two:
After launching the Junaio App and scanning the QR code from Step one, you can now point your device to any of these different visual markers to trigger the variety AR experiences we created and placed throughout the Central Branch. (We are only posting a few highlights of our AR experiences here.)

NOTE: Make sure the channel has fully downloaded to ensure functionality.

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Ravenimage

This is one of several 3D models we created to showcase the library’s incredible rare books collection. (Note: At the location, this visual marker is laying flat, rather than appearing vertically like on your screen.)

Historic FireimageThis visual marker is for our experiences around the historic fire that devastated the library in the 80s.

Puppet ShowimageThere is a stage in the back of the Children’s section that offers puppet shows Saturdays at 2PM. Since many patrons can’t attend, we thought we’d offer an augmented, on-demand version of the show playing a recent performance.

StorytimeimageAlso for the Children’s section, we’ll have books kids could use to trigger several (public domain) stories. We have four in English and one in Spanish.

Special CollectionsimageIn addition to rare books, the library as unique special collections that range from beautiful maps to vintage menus. This visual marker allows you to see their menu collection and hear from one of the collectors that donated the menus to the library.

The SphinxesimageThere are a pair of sphinxes that guard a statue, each holding a book with ancient Greek written on them. You can translate the writing by pointing your device at them.

The ArtistimageThe ceiling of the Main Lobby is covered in a vividly painted mural created by artist Renee Petropoulos. Point your device at this marker to hear an interview with Petropoulos.

Please try these out and send us your feedback! Tweet us by using the #ARchiveLAPL hashtag or email us at arjournalism [at]

Again, this is a beta of our channel.

We are no where near our final product, which will be an app. We are working with an AR design firm to create a more advanced and custom AR app, which we aim to launch early next year.

But we wanted to share this with people to get them to understand what we are working toward, even if it is a primitive, working prototype.

So, please try these out and send us your feedback! Tweet us by using the #ARchiveLAPL hashtag or email us at arjournalism [at]

// This app was created by USC students: Kaitlyn Mullin, Heather Navarro, Daniella Segura, Sydney Tuss, Serhan Ulkumen, Phoebe Unterman and Sammi Wong. (You are going to want to hire them.)

The class was led by Profe. Robert Hernandez, who received guidance from BC “Heavy” Biermann and support from USC Annenberg.

This project could not be made possible without the incredible support from the Los Angeles Public Library and the invaluable help from Ani Boyadjian and Giovanna Mannino.

We did an early beta test of our ARchive LAPL experiences with the staff at the Central Library. It was a success! Lots of work to do, but on the right track.
Photo courtesy of @ LAPublicLibrary //

We did an early beta test of our ARchive LAPL experiences with the staff at the Central Library. It was a success! Lots of work to do, but on the right track.

Photo courtesy of @ LAPublicLibrary //

This is what I think of when I take photos of markers at the library…that are photos.

This is what I think of when I take photos of markers at the library…that are photos.

Hello Midnight, My Old Friend…

I’ve come to cry with you again.

Well, actually tears have subsided because — eureka! I’ve figured out a problem.

It all started in class last night when I said, “Hey how are we going to direct the users with the app from point to point? Could we make a short video?”

And then Profe says, “We could make a gif —- why don’t you talk the ball on this one?”

And I took it.

That might now be the exact phrasing, but here I am making gifs. Or attempting to.

So our issue is one — file sizes, and two — directing our user through the Los Angeles Public Library in a creative way because Metaio is limited when it comes to stuff like that in augmented reality.

I must confess that I have never made a gif before. (Is it “jif” or “gif”? I pronounce it gif, because hey - if they wanted me to say “jiff” they should have spelled it that way!)

So I googled. And tutorials made by German children who are probably half my age popped up.

And they were great, because they say to use Photoshop which I have. Except then I was trying to create a gif that wasn’t just animation — I wanted little footsteps to pop up individually.

I tried repositioning the layers, cutting and pasting in my images (which I laboriously made one at a time in Illustrator) and it seems like everything, and the damn thing just wasn’t working.

Then I thought, “Wait! Turn off the eyeball progressively as you select each frame.”

So I had to click frame 2, and turn off layer 1. Then click frame 3 and turn off layers 1 and 2, and so on.

So yay! Another frustrating night, but I figured it out!

P.S. What a lovely floor plan sketched out in Illustrator line by line by yours truly!


I’d like to call this post AHHHH-R! As in, “AHHHHHHH! What is happening with this AR project?”

I have finally culled down 40 minutes of interview, plus seven pages of court documents, plus 10 odd minutes of news footage into a nice, neat 2 minutes 40 second video. Pretty happy with myself. But now it won’t upload to the Neon Roots CMS site. I suppose I could use “handbrake” to compress the video even more, but I don’t want to download something else on my Mac. Poor girl is already loaded up with Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut and other programs!

Since uploading videos wasn’t working, I figured I’d upload visual markers — you know, those images the phone will recognize in the AR app and start playing some content — but those aren’t rating very high. So…what? Now I can’t use those images? I have no idea.

(Aforementioned music sheet that’s not rating very high in terms of “stars.”)

On top of that, I’m working on the music section. I’ve finally found some of these century old songs. The problem is copyright. Because the Library of Congress says I can’t download the songs, I figure we’ll have to link to them to make sure we aren’t violating any copyright. But I don’t want a window to pop up. So I get the idea that I can code a page with all of the video embedded on it. But then where will it be hosted? Off of my portfolio site? Not ideal. I have a lot to figure out in not a lot of time.

Journey to the LA County Superior Court Archives

It’s like wandering into the plot of a thriller novel.

I pressed the no doubt dirty elevator button to the basement. That’s right — the basement — of the bowels of the dilapidated old building.

The elevator came to a bumbling stop, and I entered the dark dingy hallway, feeling as if I was intruding on a government-paid worker’s space.

But I have every right to be here.

As I picked up speed, following the signs that say “archives,” I begin to feel like a real gumshoe — but more importantly like a real journalist.

I’m looking into an old case. It’s from 1988, two years after the historic fire at the Downtown Central Library that lead to the demise of 400,000 books.

I first had to locate the case number, which the 2nd floor helped me find. Then I had to hoof it back to the first floor, where they told me I’d have to come back another day because they were closing. -___-

Day 2:

I walked a mile from the library to hopefully save on parking. One of my first mistakes of the day. But I digress…

I arrive back at Room 110, where I’ll be allowed to view the case file on microfiche.There are about three people ahead of me as I sign in. Piece of cake, right?


How long could three people take?


Finally, the clerk called “02.” That’s me!

After a quick tutorial on using the microfiche machine — something all young people should do before this technology is extinct and booted out for something hi-tech — I dive in.

I focus, and adjust, and speed past jargon.

See that orange line? You must tilt the document in order to get it in the lines, and then you can print.

Be careful — printing costs 50 cents per page!

Ultimately, I didn’t find the peg I was looking for. But I did find some other juicy nuggets about the fire that were worth printing.

$7 later, I travel back to the second floor of the basement to pay for my grainy copies of decades old documents.

I retrieve my pages, and ride the elevator back to civilization to find a the sun casting a silhouette on the buildings of LA.

I converge onto the bustling streets of Downtown LA for my mile-long hike back to the library where I will be informed that because I took four hours, I will have to pay $30 for parking — nearly half a day’s wages on my intern salary.

As if the day wasn’t hard enough, thanks for that swift kick in the Chiclets, Los Angeles.

"Metaio Creator" AR Publishing Platform Review

Metaio Creator is an Augmented Reality platform for designers and creative individuals. Its drag and drop interface eliminates the need for previous programming skills, while making the program relatively easy to learn. The User Interface is very well designed. The Metaio team has kept the buttons on the screen to a necessary minimum, while providing large descriptive icons for key functions. The layout makes it so that the bottom navigation bar lets the user set his/her “trackable” items.

Once the trackable item is set, in my case this item being an image, it is then loaded onto the center of the application screen. The user is then prompted to pick a “resource” to overlay on the trackable image. A small but significant detail lies in the fact that the application provides you with a star ranking of how well your image tracks. This is very useful when picking a trackable target image. Even though my image was given 2 out of 3 stars it tracked extremely well from all angles and the augmented content was very stable, which is a good sign of the company’s image tracking abilities. Metaio provides a large selection of resources to be able to augment while making sure that this “right bar” for resources, on the layout is not overly crowded. For the most part it seems that all of these resource options are useful. Ranging from being able to embed 2D videos, to audio, social media pages, images, links and 3D models. There is also an option to be able to add it to the Junaio Channel, Metaio’s augmented reality content browser.

The top Menu is not essential during the actual content creation, but it does include very necessary selections such as Saving the file, and exporting into an application. Even these options are designed in drop down style with titles such as file, edit, and view which are known to any Microsoft word user on Earth. The export menu however is a new one, it offers various options, one being “create your own app”. When I selected this option the app provided me with three distinct application options. These are the ability to create a Metaio Cloud App, a desktop app, and a Metaio SDK app.

The app seems to accept a variety of 3D files, such compatibility provides flexibility for the user. When I loaded a 3D model as an .fbx file it transferred everything over including the animation. 4 small icons appeared, each in one corner of my uploaded Newton’s Cradle. These were the “info”, “rotate”, “scale”, and “exit” buttons. The rotation icon allows the user to drag and spin the model however because computers are still in 2D the user is limited to spinning the model in solely whichever axis they are viewing the model from. For more rotation options the information box needs to be opened. It includes all three axis of rotation and is pretty self-explanatory. The scale icon was also simply a matter of dragging, and it expands or decreases the size of your “resource” of choice. However, the icon I found to be the most useful was the Information button, because when I pressed it, it included all options to manipulate the model. If you are looking for more specific scaling options with numerical input this is also provided in this box. You can also translate and move the model numerically from this info box. The info box even includes an option to select the particular animation to be played, as well as the ability to loop the animation! The one issue I did encounter was that whenever I scaled the model by dragging the scale icon it tweaked the location coordinates as well. This is expected as the model is taking up a larger or smaller area, however it wasn’t until I clicked the Start quick preview button, that I realized it had repositioned the model in the Z-axis (depth) as well. This made it so that my augmented model was appearing very far from my trigger image. This can only be adjusted by checking the numbers in the translation menu of the information box, but it is still an easy fix. The Start button with the play sign next to it is also a very intuitive indication of how to test out your content. This button is found in the bottom right corner of the application interface.

Overall, this type of layout provides almost seamless user interaction with the application. It maximizes the results, while minimizing the effort involved in creating Augmented Reality content. In my particular use case the UI was designed well enough to call it second nature, however I would benefit from some well planned tutorials in order to learn more advanced uses such as creating my own AR application. My experience with the Metaio Creator was positive; I plan on using it in the creation of future applications and I would also recommend it those who are interested in creating AR content but do not necessarily have the developer background.

This USC Annenberg course, led by @webjournalist, will explore AR Storytelling + Journalism.

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