Several of the authors in this book use the Augmented Reality (AR) game design and storytelling platform ARIS in their work. Rather than have them explain the basics of the tool in each chapter, or send you off somewhere else (e.g. Holden et al., 2014) to read about ARIS just to make sense of our authors’ use of it, we have chosen to describe the ins and out of this popular tool for creating augmented reality stories and games separately here. The editors have all used ARIS extensively, and—disclaimer—also have been involved with the ARIS project itself. Although we specifically sought submissions for this book from those not using ARIS, and the stories we share in the book are a clear indication that there are other games in town so to speak, we have come across a great number of people who have used ARIS to do some really interesting work. It is powerful, yet malleable and the price free is right.
This chapter should serve a conceptual as well as practical purpose. After all, the mobile landscape itself is changing quite rapidly. Details that felt practical as I write this for you will likely soon feel out of date as the world and software within it change. There is a lot of turnover among apps, platforms, and methods in mobile. It is unusual enough to see something like ARIS grow and stick around, and I wouldn’t want the book to feel pointless if ARIS is gone or greatly changed by the time you read this. So below, consider how the features and uses of this software do more than help you visualize the other ARIS experiments in this book or inspire your own use of ARIS this year. Details about ARIS here can inform in a concrete way perennial discussions about how a platform may function as a bridge between ideas and people.
As other technologies come into play, we can look back at this time to see how ARIS looked to realize the concept of AR in a way that empowered regular people as explorers of new terrain, cutting across a lot of traditional boundaries like discipline, age, and individual educational settings in its creation and use. We can find, in this example, the questions that we need to find answers for in the software of the future.
museum as a mobile game space. The following semester, Seann Dikkers joined them to develop a prototype design tool (that would become ARIS) in an independent study under Kurt Squire. Since then, ARIS has continued to evolve due to the attention and contributions of many more volunteers and programmers.1 ARIS has gone through many iterations, seen new funders, team members, and has led to the creation of a Mobile Learning Lab (MLL) at UW-Madison and been used by thousands of people around the globe.
Gagnon et al. are at the time of my writing, near the release of a much revised ARIS that should welcome even more people through an increased ease of use and reach. The organic way ARIS has grown and continues to develop, and its life as free, open source software, is not something that makes sense within most institutions. It is also a little convoluted to describe briefly here. But I believe it is a major reason for its resilience and usefulness. ARIS has been free to become what it needs to be and the result is something a lot of people love, often for very different reasons.