Sam Lavery – Project 4 – Interaction/Augmentation

by sam @ 11:49 pm 28 March 2012

Project 4

Poli's Restaurant today

The Mystery of the Poli Lobster Door Handles

Poli’s Restaurant was a Squirrel Hill institution, serving Italian seafood specialties from 1921-2005. Since my Italian-American grandmother used to live in the neighborhood, my family would go there to eat whenever we visited. I remember being fascinated with the huge lobster door handles made from solid brass. These handles were very recognizable as a significant and unique neighborhood artifact (the Heinz History Center made an attempt to obtain the handles after the restaurant closed). It was only after coming to Pittsburgh in 2008 to attend CMU that I learned of the mysterious disappearance of the handles. It seems that after Poli’s closed, someone managed to saw off the ornate handles without anyone noticing. Although the theft was well-known in the community, the lobsters have never been found and there are no pictures of them on the internet.

This mysterious theft of a significant neighborhood cultural artifact inspired me to create an augmented reality experience that recreates the lobster handles in their former glory. I modified a model of a lobster in 3ds Max and combined the ofx3DModelLoader and ofxArToolkitPlus addons to overlay the 3D lobster handle over a marker. My plan is to tape this marker to the doors of the now abandoned restaurant. People running the program can see what was once there and gain some appreciation for the little things that make neighborhoods like Squirrel Hill unique.

Lobster Handles from Sam Lavery on Vimeo.

I used this project as an opportunity to familiarize myself with openFramworks. Getting the two addons to compile together was difficult for me as I am not familiar with C++ and have only some experience using an IDE (I used Xcode). I have also never worked with marker-based augmented reality before so just getting everything set up took a lot of time. If I had more time/skill I would like to make a mobile application of this so that other people in the neighborhood could experience the project. Maybe if it raised awareness of the lobster handles, someone might solve the mystery.

1 Comment

  1. Too bad that you weren’t able to attach them to the actual doors of Poli as I’m sure those codes would spark a lot of interest in the community. There’s definitely a lot more to your project (like community reaction) than your presentation leads us to believe.
    I liked what you said about combining augmented reality with architecture. I think thats a really interesting possible design tool and could be a great way to demonstrate why the augmented version improves upon what’s existing.
    ** I agree. There is a lot of potential in that idea. I think seeing past or future through augmented reality is key to your concept. You should get an image of the lobsters on the actual doors.

    Even at home, would have liked to see the marker on your door, so you can get the “handle” effect
    can you erase the tracking marker with an image of the door?
    Nice idea, especially if it runs on a phone
    Great narrative! I catch the bus outside Poli’s every day, so I’d like the opportunity to reminisce about lobster door handles.
    Lots of heart in this project, as with many of your other projects. Would have been nice to get further — but, really — you got pretty far in a short time.

    Comment by admin — 29 March 2012 @ 11:40 am

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