March 3, 2021
Visitors to Heart Mountain Interpretive Center can now experience the historic site in a new way, with a recently launched augmented reality tour. The tour combines stories from Japanese Americans incarcerated at the site during World War II with 3D animations drawn over the present-day landscape. The tour can be accessed via a free smartphone app, “Heart Mountain AR,” available in the Apple and Google Play stores.
The Heart Mountain augmented reality features 16 different stops around the grounds of the historic site and inside the original 1942 Heart Mountain barrack. Each stop is marked with an interactive sign visitors can scan with their smartphone to trigger real-time 3D animations which bring to life scenes from the history of the Heart Mountain camp.
The tour was designed by Jonathan Amakawa, head of STUDIO Amawaka and an associate professor of communications media at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. Amakawa said he felt a personal connection to the project. “As a Japanese American myself, it was an honor and privilege to be able to tell the story of Heart Mountain,” Amakawa said. “Augmented reality technology allows us to leverage the power of place in presenting the history and personal stories of the Japanese American incarceration experience.”
Scenes that can be seen on the tour include a dance in the barracks, a practice of the Heart Mountain Eagles football team, and the chance meeting of two Boy Scouts–Norman Mineta and Alan Simpson–at the camp in 1943. Visitors are welcomed to the tour by the animated avatar of Takashi Hoshizaki, a former incarceree of the camp and Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation board member.
Dakota Russell, executive director of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, said the augmented reality tour is a first step in expanding the visitor experience at Heart Mountain. “The tour encourages visitors to explore the historic site and consider the true scope of the camp,” said Russell. “In combination with the ongoing restoration of the original barrack and root cellar, it will provide our guests with a much richer image of life at Heart Mountain.”