New app uses technology to combine new and old Edmonton

A superimposed photo shows what Gateway Boulevard just south of Whyte Avenue used to look like, compared to now. Courtesy: City of Edmonton Archives/On This Spot Enterprises

An app developed in Vancouver has expanded to Edmonton and allows you to take a virtual walk through the past.

On This Spot is a free app that allows users to go to a certain spot in their city and see just how much that spot has changed.

Currently there are two walking tours of sorts available. One will take users through Old Strathcona and the other focuses on the river valley and the influence of prominent builder John Walter.

“John Walter is just a fascinating figure — one of these really enterprising entrepreneurs who was able to help develop the community in so many different ways,” CEO Andrew Farris said. “And Strathcona especially is such an excellent place with such a rich built heritage, that it’s very well suited for the type of storytelling we do in our app.”

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The other features allow users to check a map to see what images might be near them. With over 200 historical photos loaded into the app, there are spots all over the city that people can compare.

“This app provides a unique, visual journey into our past,” Robert Geldart, senior planner with the heritage planning unit at the City of Edmonton said. “It uses technology in a fun way to allow us to learn more about Edmonton’s history and see how much the city has changed.”

A superimposed photo shows what the corner of Gateway Boulevard and Whyte Avenue used to look like, compared to now. Courtesy: City of Edmonton Archives/On This Spot Enterprises

The app features a number of cities across the country including Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Toronto. When users open the app they’ll be able to pick what city they’re in and that will launch the various features of the app.

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Users have two ways they can use the app. The walking tour will allow them to follow along in the app and read about the site that they’re on while using a slider to compare old photos with new ones.

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LISTEN BELOW: Andrew Farris joins the Ryan Jespersen Show to discuss On This Spot

The other way is to allow the app to access your camera. Then users can actually superimpose the old photo with the new one, even putting themselves in the historical picture.

“One of our main goals is to tell the history in a very educational, but also engaging way so we can get young people and people who aren’t normally interested in history to get more engaged,” Farris said.

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Right now, the app doesn’t include any audio, but Farris said that is coming “soon” and will offer a more traditional guided tour-type opportunity.

A new update is expected to roll out in about a week, which will introduce new features to the app and the user experience, including a more powerful image editor.

“That will allow people to create really impressive art on their own in a way that we haven’t seen done anywhere else,” Farris said. “We’re hoping that it really engages people and gets them excited about history.”

WATCH BELOW: (September 2018) On Saturdays, the City Market Downtown is synonymous with 104 Street. Kent Morrison takes a look back at its history.

Click to play video: 'A look at the history of Edmonton’s City Market Downtown'
A look at the history of Edmonton’s City Market Downtown

On This Spot launched in 2016 when Farris partnered with fellow University of Victoria grads Chris Reid and Sean Edmunds. The trio developed the concept into the app to feature tours of Vancouver first.

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“Knowledge of history is pretty fundamental to just being a citizen in a democratic society,” Farris said of why he wanted to develop the app.

The app is available to download for free on the city’s website. You can also visit On This Spot’s website and view the available tours without having to be at the location.

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