AR Cité Blog

Students Demo App at Media Night

Imagine if the hallways of Dawson College could speak. What stories might they tell? And suppose the neighbouring streets and buildings could whisper their secrets.  What hidden histories and suppressed voices would come to light? 


Intrigued by these questions, some Dawson students have undertaken an ambitious exercise in interactive history, employing cutting-edge Augmented Reality tools to create an app that unearths the multi-layered past of Dawson and its urban environment.

Called AR Cité — pronounced Our City — the app is slated for release later in 2022, when it will be available as a free download that works on most smartphones or tablets. Once you’ve downloaded the app, the camera on your device will be able to identify over a dozen designated sites, all located in the Dawson neighbourhood, using geolocative data to ‘augment’ what you see with superimposed content created by students. 


The first iteration of AR Cité got its public outing on December 3 at the Cinema | Communications Department Media Night.  Scaled down in compliance with public health protocols, the end-of-semester showcase of student work nonetheless attracted a curious and enthusiastic crowd. 


When art meets technology


Sophia Conway Giannopoulos, pictured below, is a student in Pure and Applied Science and a member of the project team. For demonstration purposes, she’s mimicking the final user interface, triggering the AR content with poster-sized photos rather than real-life target locations.



Once the app is released, you’ll be able to point your camera towards the fresco in the library — and conjure up lively and informative details about the congregation of nuns who once used the space as their chapel. Direct your camera at the mural of Alanis Obomsawin on Lincoln Street, and you’ll learn about her trailblazing role as an Indigenous filmmaker and educator. Other locations include the Montreal Forum, Westmount Square and the site of the former Seville Theatre, once a thriving vaudeville house.


“AR Cité brings art and technology together,” says Sophia, “and that doesn’t happen often in traditional teaching settings. It’s been an enriching learning experience, one I wouldn’t have otherwise.”


"Made by students, for students"

Augusto Pinheiro, a recent Dawson graduate who’s now majoring in computer science at Concordia, has been onboard from the beginning. “AR Cite is being made by students, for students, which makes it different from lots of other cultural apps. It’s not like a company’s been contracted to make it, we’re doing it ourselves. And we get to work in a diverse team — with developers, UI designers, artists, team leads. That’s been the biggest thing for me, learning how to work in a team setting, how to make a useful contribution.”


Augusto has already made a valuable personal contribution to the project, designing an ingenious web-based ingest tool that makes it easy to add new content to the app.  Other students have been busy researching historic archives and creating content that sheds new light on local history and culture.

“The journey to get here has been amazing”

Infusing pedagogy with a pop culture sensibility, AR Cité gives Dawson students their first opportunity to work with Augmented Reality, powerful transformative technology that’s been attracting major investment from big hitters like Google, Meta and Apple.


The process of making the app is arguably more interesting than the final product, says Sophia. “The app is going to be fantastic, a tool to show people what exists around them, but the whole creative process is just as important. The journey to get here has been amazing, for me and everyone else on the team.”


The project was kick-started by Cinema | Communications faculty member Reisa Levine and her Communication Design class. Key collaborators on Phase One have been Ramona Ramochland and her Media Lab, with useful input from Science and History students. Technical and production support is provided by KngFu Numerik, a leading Montreal producer of multiplatform content, with financial support from Entente Quebec Canada (ECQ), a federal/provincial partnership that funds minority language educational projects in the province. 


Production continues for the next two semesters and the team welcomes interested faculty and students who would like to get involved. 


Contact Reisa Levine at for more information.

Previous posts

The Origin Story

The mural is hard to miss.  A monumental portrait of Alanis Obomsawin, it’s a striking image, adorning an entire exterior