Kent State Receives NEH Grant to Use the Power of Augmented Reality to Commemorate May 4, 1970

Coinciding with the 50th commemoration of the events of May 4, 1970, Kent State University faculty members have received a grant for $175,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to launch an on-site augmented reality experience of May 4. The team includes Richard Ferdig, Ph.D., the primary investigator, along with Robert Clements, Ph.D., Enrico Gandolfi, Ph.D., Annette Kratcoski, Ph.D., and Cheng-Chang Lu, Ph.D., as co-investigators. This interdisciplinary team involves faculty from the College of Education, Health and Human Services as well as the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biological Sciences and Department of Computer Science.

Shown is the augmented view of the Victory Bell on the Kent State University campus as it would have looked on May 1, 1970.

On May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on Kent State students protesting the U.S. invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War, killing four and wounding nine.

“Mobile augmented reality can make a difference in understanding history, blending past and present and fostering situational learning and awareness,” Gandolfi said.

The goal of the project is to harness augmented reality for teaching history, memory healing and civic activism. The technology will allow users to visit this time in history by placing them in the reconstructed landscape of the campus, as it was on May 1-4, 1970. The technology, which relies on the groundbreaking use of augmented reality, delivers historical content to the user on a mobile device according to the user’s specific locations.

“The experience we are creating allows users at any location to view the past in the frame of the present through the lens of augmented reality,” Clements said. “Coupling historical imagery with descriptive audio immerses the viewer in the events of May 4th, prompting reflection to promote healing.”

As a result of a previous grant provided by NEH in 2018, the Kent State team successfully developed the prototype of the augmented reality experience. The new NEH grant will expand content provided in the prototype, reshape the experience through user-centered design and ultimately bring the application to the public.

“We know there is value in being able to learn from history; however, it is not always easy to step back and look through the eyes of someone who lived through an event that happened 50 years ago,” Ferdig explained. “Drawing on the success of the initial prototype, the goal of this interdisciplinary team is to be able to let viewers experience the social, cultural and political contexts that surrounded May 4, 1970.”

With the new NEH grant, the team estimates the public will be able to try out the product for the 50th commemoration in May 2020. The final grant products will be delivered the first quarter of 2022.

For more information about the 50th Commemoration of May 4, visit

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Media Contacts:
Rick Ferdig,, 330-672-3317
Emily Vincent,, 330-672-8595

POSTED: Wednesday, January 22, 2020 02:01 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 30, 2023 10:59 PM
Rebecca Johnson