Augmented Reality in the library - gaming Welcome Week

Helen Lane and her colleagues created an Augmented Reality game to engage new starters at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

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Testing, updating and correcting 

Of course, no project is complete before you have tested it. With this in mind, I recruited library staff and student workers to play our game and provide feedback. Given no more than the promotional flyer and video, our volunteers were asked to figure out the steps for playing, to report any technical glitches and to make suggestions on how to give game instructions more clarity  

Most of our testers were unsure of how close they should stand to the trigger when scanning. Some treated the trigger stickers the way one might a QR code, getting very close. The result was either that they received no AR content, or worse, that they received the wrong AR content. It was the latter that concerned me the most, especially as the final video, featuring “The Director” was appearing where it shouldn't. The game was constructed to be taken in a particular order, but the logo stickers made the triggers too similar. There were three ways to correct this particular issue. The first was to re-photograph the triggers to include more background. Doing so would ensure the triggers were unique and distinct from one another. The second was to make sure that the final video which had the director congratulating game players was its own very unique trigger sticker.  The third was to provide additional instructions regarding how and where players should stand in relationship to the trigger stickers. In the end we decided to do all three. 

Welcome week student game play 

Student Life at FIT decided to make the Library AR Scavenger Hunt a required part of their Welcome Week Common Project. Common Project is an activity in which new students are divided into teams (there were 26 of them this year) which are each given the same set of tasks to complete in five days. Information and experience gathered while completing the Common Project is shared by each team in a closing ceremony at the end of the week. By allowing the AR game to be part of Common Project, I was giving up the notion that each of the 1000+ incoming students would play the game as individuals, which wasn’t a realistic expectation in the first place. In exchange, I was getting the promise of required collaborative exploration of the library or at least I thought so.

The week started off well, with a group of nine excited students entering the library just after we had opened on the first day of play. I had to help them get started but once they understood how to use the Aurasma app, they seemed to really be enjoying themselves. By the end of the first day we had a rough head count of 13 participants. I considered this to be a successful turnout for the first day but was disappointed to see on the following days that some teams were sending lone individuals to play the game and complete a Common Project task. The number of players decreased as the week passed. Nonetheless, I was curious to see what the statistics indicated. 

As a non-paying user of Aurasma, I could not obtain statistics directly associated with our account, so my main source for statistics, other than headcount, was to track the SMS keyword messages coming into our LibAnswers system the days of game play. Our LibAnswers dashboard shows that our system sent out 40 auto responses to keyword SMS messages between August 21 and 25. Complete game play required 6 SMS keyword messages. If each participant completed play this would mean that 6.6 of the 26 Common Core teams (26%) participated at some level, although clearly not all them some completed the sequence. 


While the game did not directly engage as many students has I had hoped it would, it was well received by the students who did play it. Furthermore, the creation of the AR game caught the attention of upper level administrators and has been used as a test case to pave the way for the use of AR for orientation elsewhere on campus. Additionally, the video “auras” that were created for the game are now in use for general informational purposes. Overall, I would say that our efforts are were successful and the return on invested energy and resources was substantial. 

Helen Taylor Lane is Emerging Technologies Librarian at Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, USA.

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