Students Give Route 66 a 3D Facelift

Stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 is the most famous highway in the United States. It’s been featured in movies, on television, in books, and now it’s getting a multimedia makeover thanks to three Cal State University East Bay students and a 1969 VW Bug.

Ann King, Marc Meyer, and Tina Lai, are three participants in the graduate multimedia program at CSUED, and for their thesis project they are designing a truly unique experience of the Mother Road. By retrofitting the VW Bug with windshield-mounted computer monitors, users will be able to navigate Route 66 by using 3D technology combined with audio, video, photographs, and maps. The three will unveil the project June 13, 2010.

This has been a daunting task for the group of students, as they have been traveling the highway and talking to many museums and associations that are aware of the project and hope to attend its debut. With King serving as photographer for the project, and also cold-calling business for donations, she was also instrumental in securing the VW Bug used in the project.

Originally belonging to someone who attended classes at Cal State Harvard, the car found its way into the hands of restorer Jordan Hart, who graciously donated the vehicle after hearing about the project. David Co, general manager of the Hayward Maaco body shop, donated the Bug’s paint job. CSUEB red.

Tina Lai was responsible for embedding Nintendo Wii hardware into the car, and Google Earth will be providing the geographic information needed for the project. Although not intended to be a completely accurate experience for the user, the multimedia experience will focus on the journey. When someone using the program comes upon a key point along Route 66, video and archival images will appear, which encourage the user to interact with the Bug. Honk the horn when finished, and you’re back on track, heading for the next destination.

Marc Meyer is filming the team’s progress which will be posted on their website and on Vimeo, and he’s also producing video content that will be shown inside the Bug.

Rafael Hernandez, chair of the Department of Music and and director of the multimedia graduate program, says that, “The Mother Road project accomplishes something that is quite special and rare in media development today. With a sensitivity to simpler times, times before information was just a second away in the form of the Internet, they are able to spin a yarn about an important part of American culture, Route 66, without letting that which is so markedly different about then and now get in the way.”

After the projects completion and unveiling in June, the students are hoping that the VW Big will become part of one of the museums along Route 66, allowing them to make some sort of contribution to the highway’s story. They’re definitely on the right track, and hopefully this project will pay off, allowing more people to experience a road they wouldn’t have given much thought to otherwise.