Reality writes: Classic literature, now augmented

Now you see it: Both "OnWords" and its next-gen spinoff, "FAVEART for OnWords," add augmented-reality imagery to classic literary works.

Picture this: Two Adelphi University computer-science seniors (now graduates) have turned an interactive poetry project into its own augmented reality, complete with massive commercial and educational upsides.

These are both literal and literary truths for Fabliha Hossain and Victoria Grinthal, who were seniors during the Spring 2020 semester, when mathematics and computer science professor Lee Stemkoski connected them with Adelphi alumna (and established digital content creator) Shoshanah Tarkow.

Tarkow had shown off her new software creation OnWords, an “interactive augmented reality poetry experience” that spiced up Walt Whitman poetry with AR imagery, at Adelphi’s 2019 Fall Arts Festival. Stemkoski’s Spring 2020 challenge for Hossain and Grinthal was to develop a multi-platform prototype that could take the OnWords app to the next level.

Shoshanah Tarkow: Closer to reality.

Their solution: A deep-dive capstone project that created FAVEART for OnWords, an AR visual web application that creates a kind of literary scavenger hunt by adding animated AR imagery to all sorts of historical content, for educational purposes.

FAVEART (an acronym for “Fabilha and Victoria Explore Augmented Reality Technology”) is designed to grow Tarkow’s original concept by expanding beyond Whitman and allowing educators to incorporate ever-evolving technologies into multimedia lessons.

“The project was designed to allow educators to show students the importance of literature and history through animated text in the real world,” noted Grinthal, who received her computer science degree this summer along with Hossain. “Specifically, the application would give educators the ability to personalize texts based on various topics and place them on a physical ‘path,’ built with either AR markers or geolocations.”

Through FAVEART for OnWords, educators (called “pathmakers”) can customize the “path” and text for each location. Students (“explorers”) can follow the path on their laptop or mobile device, allowing them to physically view, explore and in other ways absorb the material at hand.

Think “Pokémon Go” meets eighth grade World Lit, with “various security conditions” built in, according to Adelphi. Tarkow – who’s also co-creator of Like Fresh Skin, an innovative and immersive text-based theater company – said she was thrilled with the work put in by her fellow alumnae.

“Fabliha and Victoria have successfully coded and designed a working prototype, bringing my vision for OnWords even closer to becoming a reality,” Tarkow noted. “(I) could not have been more pleased with the result.”

Neither could Stemkoski, who sees the collaboration between the now three Adelphi alumnae as a key expression of how technology and art can be mutually beneficial.

“This is a stellar example of how technology and the arts and humanities can come together to create meaningful and powerful experiences,” the professor said. “Fabliha and Victoria … were able to combine their creativity and design aesthetics with their expertise in software engineering to produce an application with incredible potential for outreach.

“[They] did an amazing job on this project,” Stemkoski added. “The FAVEART project makes cutting-edge augmented-reality technology available and accessible to the masses.”