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Innovative AR App Uses Geo-Location to Deepen Poetry Experience

May 6, 2024

Master of Digital Media (MDM) students have created an award-winning immersive experience that connects people to site-specific poetry with an innovative app that uses geo-location technologies.

Sun Yat Garden with text overlay

The app offers an augmented reality experience for poetry listeners to gain a sense of connection between the physical and digital world. By using geo-location to engage poetry in the same location it was written, listeners can extend and deepen the meaning of the poem through the synergy of sounds, nature, time, and the spoken word, creating something unique that can’t be offered by an exclusively digital product.

“Poetry is, and has always been, an element of every human culture,” says Jonathan Hennessy, MDM alumnus, and designer and researcher on this project.  “It’s part of what makes us who we are. So, it’s inevitable that poetry would find new forms of expression in the digital age. Engaging with poems about and inspired by places within it is a singular opportunity to understand and appreciate where and among whom we live.” 

Screenshots of App

It isn’t just this experience that makes the app unique. The team also had to take a very different approach when it came to integrating maps within the app.

When CeDAR, a unit at UBC’s Institute of Critical Indigenous Studies approached Centre for Digital Media to create an immersive poetry app, on the surface it didn’t seem to require any innovations in design or technology. But when it came time to think about map integration, it brought up a host of questions around our historical relationship with maps. 


Maps are everywhere online and it’s something we don’t think twice about. We use maps to get to our next destination, find restaurants, or maybe an EV charging station. But we often overlook the reality that maps are the result of centuries of actions and decisions by colonial powers imposing their agendas.

It shapes our relationship to the land, and current maps were in large part a tool to visualize and re-render the world as data that could serve as an aid in extracting resources, apportioning labour, and historically redistributing wealth on a massive scale typically to European powers.

With this in mind, the team conceptualized an interface to locate geo-anchored content that could present space and navigation in a fresh and less problematic way while adhering to CeDAR’s values of providing learning opportunities in a culturally relevant context.  

“I’m terrifically proud of the work our team did, and it was wonderful to be recognized by the Horizon Interactive Awards,” says Jonathan. “It shows that our unique values-based approach to innovation is something that is worthy of attention.”

“This project, like so many others in the MDM, not only honed my skills with digital media and enhanced my way of working on a team, but also was a chance to become a more well-rounded individual.” 

Team photo of Locative Audio

Meet the Team

SoHyun Park – Project Manager and Product Designer

Alice Kong – Product Owner and Lead Designer

Helen He – 2D Artist, Designer, and 3D Artist

Liam Thorne - Developer

Justin Jao - Developer

Jonathan Hennessey – Content Designer and Researcher 

Work with our students

Access a multidisciplinary team of students take on an applied technology-focused project to develop prototypes or applications from concept to deliverable.

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