Mobile app recreates Kolkata’s history in real-time

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Heritage enthusiasts and tourists can now travel back in time to experience the grandeur of 19th century Kolkata through a unique mobile app that offers a glimpse of the city during the British Raj by a mere pointing of a smartphone at a monument.

Christened ‘Timescape: Kolkata’, the app incorporates more than 100 geographical points (such as National Library and Victoria Memorial Hall) and historic images of the city, going back into the past as well as depicting the landscape today.

It is essentially a blending of virtual reality and real life into what is technically known as augmented reality (AR), a hot digital trend through which users can imagine themselves in the 19th century environment accompanied with audio and video.

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The app is a collaborative effort between Kolkata’s Jadavpur University and University of Liverpool in UK in association with the British Library.

Many of the images used in the app are from British Library’s photographic archives and date back to the 1800s.

Speaking ahead of the app’s launch at the Victoria Memorial Hall (VMH) here on Saturday, its curator Jayanta Sengupta said: “If you point your smartphone camera at a particular location, the app recognises where you are in the city based on GPS location co-ordinates. The image on your screen will then be augmented by a corresponding 19th century photograph.”

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“It basically brings history to life and merges past with the present,” Sengupta told IANS.

The VMH has also provided images and other data, so that historic images of Kolkata can be embedded in an interactive map.

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The team of developers includes Nandini Das, project lead from the University of Liverpool’s Department of English, Supriya Chaudhuri from Jadavpur University and John Falconer, lead curator of prints, drawings and photographs at the British Library.

Supported by the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI), the project aims to explore the critical role played by Indian cities in negotiating contact between India and the rest of the world.

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