Tagwhat Augmented Reality App Tells Stories Behind Places

Here’s a new application of augmented reality. Tagwhat, a media company based in Boulder, Colorado, has a “Great Stories at Places” app that lets users of iPhones (3GS/4) and Android-using smartphones learn some of the stories behind places they visit.

Tagwhat Augmented Reality App for iPhoneFor example, on the steps of Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, you can watch Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” Or, while touring San Francisco, you can see historic photos that show how different sites were devastated by the San Francisco Earthquake.

Tagwhat’s team of new media journalists and filmmakers worked with publishing partners such as the Associated Press (AP), the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Virginia Beach Public Library System to create and curate thousands rich-media stories that can “augment” your understanding and enjoyment of some of the places you visit.

Organized like TV channels, the stories pop up on top of real-life locations and change based on where you are looking. If a story is too good not to share, you can send a personalized, digital postcard to friends via Facebook, Twitter or email.

Tagwaht Digital Postcard from Great Stories at Places Augmented Reality App

Channels include: Heritage, Movies, Sports, Food, Nature, Music, and Art.

In the “Movies” channel, you can watch a clip of the parade from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” while walking down the same Chicago street. Or you can read about Woody Allen movie settings while touring New York.

Visitors to the LA Coliseum can tap into the “Sports” channel for a look back at the 1984 Summer Olympics with videos of gold medalists Mary Lou Retton and Carl Lewis.

In the “Music” channel you can hear Janis Joplin sing outside the Austin club where she got her start and see images of her preparing to perform.

A “Visit” feature lets you take a virtual trip to Tagwhat’s featured cities: New York; San Francisco; Los Angeles; Washington, DC; Chicago; Boulder, Colorado; Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; and Virginia Beach, Virginia. You can look around and interact with multimedia stories as if you were standing in that city!

Tagwhat is already seeded with thousands of stories, with new stories being added every day.


4 thoughts on “Tagwhat Augmented Reality App Tells Stories Behind Places”

  1. Interesting post, Eileen. For a couple of reasons… (1) I photographed Janis Joplin at that Austin club way back when (I was a student); (2) Odd that Virginia Beach is in that list of major cities (I live in Virginia now); and (3) I wonder what their business model is that can support “thousands of stories” on a Free App in the iTunes Store. The only way I see them making money is via the ad sales in the free app. Or…. ??? (curious minds want to know!)…


  2. Hi Harald:

    Thanks for your comments. Because I didn’t know how to answer the questions, I sent some questions to Dave Elchoness, CEO of Tagwhat, noting that I published the story to help journalists and writers see where new opportunities might be emerging. I’m posting Dave’s response below. Note he would like to get some feedback about his business model. So, what do you think? –Eileen

    From Dave Elchoness, CEO, Tagwhat:
    “I completely agree with you that new technologies, like Tagwhat, will open new opportunities and careers for journalists. In fact we employ four recent graduates of the University of Colorado School of Journalism who create original content for us and curate content from around the web that we use to tell the stories in Tagwhat. We also have several students interning with us.

    First, why Virginia Beach: When we were building Tagwhat, representatives of the Virginia Beach Public Library heard me speak at an event and contacted me to discuss whether there were any opportunities to work together. I shared with them our vision for Tagwhat and they enthusiastically agreed to be a pilot publisher on the system, pre-launch. They put lots of time into creating stories in Tagwhat and have been fantastic partners. We featured Virginia Beach, along with NYC, LA, and several others, to allow people around the world to virtually travel there and enjoy the content that the Public Library put together. Featured cities will certainly change over time, but right now, Virginia Beach models what we’re looking to achieve with Tagwhat quite well.

    Second, our business model: We plan on opening our publishing platform to people, institutions, and brands who want to tell their place-based stories in Tagwhat in the near future (subject to our editorial oversight.) When we do, there will be several ways for us (and them) to make money including traditional and non-traditional mobile and on-line ads, channel-wide sponsorships, licensing deals, and more.

    One approach we’ve considered is partnering with entities with large archives to offer our publishers the opportunity to license their content for use in Tagwhat in exchange for some sort of revenue share. Publishers could also generate revenue through links from their stories to a shop for instance (e.g. like my story? buy my photo or a t-shirt.)

    I’d love to hear what people think about the business model approach. Would large archives be willing to connect into Tagwhat in exchange for a rev share each time one of our publishers wants to use one of their digital images or videos?”

  3. [response to Dave’s comments]

    Thanks Eileen and Dave for feedback. Couple of quick followups from my side:

    1. APP ISSUES: Your App sounds great but I was unable to download it to either my iPad2 or my iPodTouch (both Wi-Fi). Bummer! Why would you restrict your free download for people who want to take virtual trips to your partner locations? What am I missing?

    2. BIZ MODEL: Not my biz, of course ;-), but yes, I can see your model working as long as stakeholders are sharing mutual benefits. I can imagine even individual creatives (at work 🙂 participating with place-based stories as either content providers or mini-publishers themselves.

    Good luck with it! (and tell me when/how I can download it!)

  4. Harald:

    We are working on an iPad 2 version. As for iPodTouch, we can’t use it because it lacks the necessary location based elements we use in the app.

    Now, as for the business model, yes, we will be launching a publishing platform soon that will allow folks with content or who want to develop content themselves to publish location-based stories. These will be reviewed for quality by us, because we want to avoid having too much noise in the app, and monetizable by the publishers (i.e. content owners/creators.) I appreciate your interest so much. If you would like a personal demo, I’d be delighted.


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