The On This Spot app takes people on guided walking tours through the history that surrounds them. At each stop on their journey users will find themselves standing on the spot a historic photo was taken. They can view a then and now photo comparison, use the built in camera to create their own, and read about local history and how it ties into the broader human experience.
The proliferation of smartphones has been incredibly swift: three quarters of Canadian and American adults now own one, more than double the number four years ago. This means that for the first time the majority of people now hold in their hands the power of augmented reality, allowing them to look at their surroundings in an entirely new way.
The On This Spot app seeks to harness this power, giving users an unprecedented capacity to engage with local history. We’ve emphasized a simple and intuitive interface so that anyone with a basic understanding of phone technology can easily navigate it. The historical information is presented in well-defined tiers, allowing us to provide unparalleled depth without overwhelming those with a more casual interest. We’ve designed the app to have the broadest appeal possible, from children to historians.
The often striking then and now photos serve to ignite people’s curiosity, while thoughtful and comprehensive walking tours can examine a practically limitless range of historical themes. We can chart the evolution of technologies and trends, recount events and the lives of historical figures, and explain the rise and fall of cities and industries.
In addition this app has a range of community benefits. For locals, the depth of content can promote a deeper understanding of their heritage and foster a stronger sense of community. Walking tours are a marketable attraction to tourists and can serve as a powerful educational tool for students. Getting people out and about re-examining their surroundings can be a boon for local businesses, especially since most shopping streets have long, well-photographed histories.
We believe there is also something to be said for the profound experience of peeling back the mists of time and gazing directly into the past from the same vantage as a photographer from a bygone era. To be able to see the faces of the people who once walked the streets you are walking and read of the great events and long-vanished daily routines that once occurred there is a uniquely humbling and contemplative experience that we believe many people will come to love.
Co-Founder and CEO
Andrew has always been deeply passionate about history. After completing his studies at UVic he sought to share that passion by creating the On This Spot blog to chronicle his travels in Canada, Asia and Europe. This app is an outgrowth of that project. Andrew has previously worked as a web designer, journalist, researcher and photographer and continues to develop and write for the EnergyBC project.
Co-Founder and CTO
Chris has been making websites and programming servers since the early days of cable internet. After attending Lighthouse Labs he has become heavily involved in the Vancouver tech scene working with an assortment of startups to help them improve their systems, teaching at the bootcamp, and currently designs, develops, and maintains CEO.ca, an emerging cross platform iOS/android/web app for Canadian investors.
Chief of Business Development
Sean Edmunds currently serves as Chief Business Development Officer for On This Spot. He has an extensive background in finance, sales and marketing. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Victoria specializing in Economics and is a CFA Charterholder.
Chief of Content Development
Annabel Howard studied art history at Oxford and has an MA in biographical writing from the University of East Anglia. She has worked as a lecturer and guide across Italy and the UK. She has written three books, the first of which, a graphic biography of Kandinsky, was released in October 2015. She is currently artist in residence at the Centre for the Study of Religion and Society at UVic.
On This Spot began as a history-focused travel and photography blog developed by Vancouver's Andrew Farris. In 2013, while visiting Nagasaki, Andrew saw plaques at many sites with pictures showing how those places looked in the aftermath of the atomic bomb. Taking photos from the same perspective and superimposing them over one another - then and now - created a lasting impression and was a striking way to tie history to a physical place. Andrew went about creating then and now photo essays in a variety of other cities and historic sites he visited. Loving the experience of reading about history in the places it occurred, in 2015 Andrew visited the beaches of Normandy and found it was a hassle to carry around books on D-Day and thumb through them to find passages related to the place he was standing on. Why wasn't there an app for that?
It turns out there wasn't an app for that. Furthermore there was no app that combined engaging history with then and now photography to create an immersive historical experience.
Andrew teamed up with his long-time friend and programmer Chris Reid, to build that app and demo it in Vancouver. Since the app's launch in the summer of 2016, On This Spot has partnered with the University of Victoria and local heritage and tourism organizations, and brought on talented new team members, with the aim of expanding this new type of digital storytelling to cities and towns across Western Canada. We hope to ultimately bring On This Spot coverage to communities across Canada and around the world.