philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


Augmented Reality Helps Pay Tribute to Deceased Veterans

shutterstock_681312058"I love these words: 'By strangers honored, by strangers mourned,' " said Scot French as he stood in the St. Augustine National Cemetery Thursday reading the gravestone inscription for a Dr. Charles Noyes, a 27-year-old Army surgeon interred at the site.

"In a way, we are those strangers," said French, an associate professor of history at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. "We are using data to create interactive visualizations that, at a glance, tell a story."

The effort is part of a major archiving project by UCF which just launched a website cataloguing nearly all the 1,227 grave sites at the St. Augustine National Cemetery.

Launched in 2016, the Veterans Legacy Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a way to memorialize the lives of veterans and share their stories with the general public.

Faculty and students at the UCF researched and wrote biographies of the soldiers buried or memorialized at the cemetery. They used primary sources including government records, census data and newspaper accounts to discover information about veterans' lives, including their occupations, where and when they enlisted, how they were killed and other details.

There is also an "augmented reality" mobile application which allows smartphone users to hold their device up to a headstone and pull up matching background information on that specific veteran to create an interactive walking tour of cemetery.

"That's what we're doing in digital mapping, looking for patterns ... and you can't do that unless you lift it from the printed page," said French. "A whole new frontier of research is coming to us."

For example, Lyons pulled up a heat map that was formed from the data points showing how infectious diseases like malaria killed soldiers more often than warfare in the 19th century.

To access the Veterans Legacy Program and to learn more about the stories behind the veterans buried at the St. Augustine National Cemetery go online to

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