Augmented Reflections – Home

Experiencing Spanish, Indigenous, and Anglo Relations in Mexico, New Mexico, and Colorado from the 16th through 20th Centuries

Augmented Reflections is a multi-year research project funded by the 2018 UCCS College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences’ Innovative Research Initiative. Our endeavor reshapes interpretation, understanding, and knowledge by generating virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality worlds (AR, interactive digital projections placed over the real world). We are creating an interpretive digital experience that places participants within the narratives of Spanish conquest and exploration, Pueblo and Plains Indian life, Indian-Spanish interchange, and the Hispano settlement of New Mexico and Colorado. We are presently creating four virtual worlds (using the Unity game engine) to evaluate:

  • Spanish conquistador Coronado’s mid-1500s exploration of New Mexico and Colorado.
  • Spanish-Pueblo Indian interchange in northern New Mexico during the 1700s.
  • The Spanish colonial “Miracle of San Acacio” in the San Luis Valley.
  • Spanish-Plains Indian colonial relations along the Purgatoire River in Colorado.


Project samples: Unity VR World

From Here to there:
How we turned documents into a digital world

     When we began the project, it became immediately apparent that we needed a process to go from a neat idea, to a published item. The disciplines of historical research and software development needed a common language – we had to create that language.

Having created the barest of trees, we developed a process for our undergraduate students to identify one – and only one detail – then search for properly documented data about that detail. The goal is to build the blocks, then we can use the blocks to build the world.

The most basic relation between the disciplines, in our view, was data collection and organization; fortunately the File Tree is well known to software developers! We identified several key variables that would appear in a digital world, and classified them to guide the research. 

We created an example “onesheet” to show how for each detail, we need physical descriptions, a picture or diagram, a brief discussion, and properly cited scholarly sources. At a glance, data is available and organized. Bonus! These onesheets are the Augmented Reality Handbook.


On February 22, 1540, Spanish conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado assembled 289 Spanish soldiers and in excess of 1,500 indigenous warriors (indios amigos) to pursue the exploration present-day New Mexico in search of the Seven Cities of Gold (Cibola).

Often the Spanish exploration, conquest, and settlement of the Americas is presented in overly simplistic ways that do not take into account indigenous peoples roles as collaborators and partners of the Spanish. Through events like the muster roll we can better understand the dynamic relationships that connected these peoples. 

By the year 1535, less than half a century after Columbus arrived in America; Spain had established its control over a large part of the continent from their bases in the Caribbean. In western New Spain, the collapse of the Tarascan kingdom gave Spain control of the Pacific coastline of what is now called Central America, into the present state of Nayarit, a rich agricultural land where the Spanish established villages and continued to push northward into modern day Sinaloa. Having  gained control of the town of Culiacan, the Spanish established a beachhead from which they sent expeditions farther north to capture indigenous people to be sold as slaves. Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza designated Antonio Vazquez de Coronado, the young governor of the province of New Galicia, to lead a large expedition to this Tierra Nueva, New Land, and settle the territory. [Read more]

The muster roll reveals the diversity within indigenous and Spanish communities — not just how to two communities differed from one another. For example, the indigenous warriors participating in the exploration of northern Mexico and New Mexico vastly outnumbered their Spanish counterparts. This detail offers a much more complex and nuanced image of how broadly diverse indigenous peoples reacted or responded to, and even embraced and cooperated with the Europeans. Similar in complexity, the Spanish were not a uniform community and drew from high and lower-status communities from Spain. Some were nominal Catholics (converts to Christianity) and others even secret-Jews evading Spain’s inquisition. Others, those of lower status, did not even have their own Spanish weapons and instead wore indigenous cotton armor and used obsidian battle axes. The Muster Roll is an important snapshot because it reveals depth, dimension, and shades of meaning more complex than the simplistic conquest narrative. Within the grander currents, human beings lived; the Muster Roll shows some ways that some persons went about contending with those currents.

AR/Vr Experiences with your device

The muster roll can be best experienced using the standalone Windows OS and Mac OS applications. These apps are designed to be run on more powerful gaming computers and those suited for intensive video/design activities. Additionally, an Oculus Rift headset is required to experience the immersive world. The apps can be downloaded [here].

More compact and tailored versions of the world can be experienced using a smart device, such as a Microsoft Surface, Apple iPad, Android smartphone, or Apple iPhone. Three small sections of the world can be experienced as augmented reality apps that use Vuforia. These apps can be downloaded [here.]

Within the virtual world are a number of custom-built avatars, objects, and natural world components. To create these items we first conducted extensive research. Specifically, UCCS students researched and prepared documented descriptions of historical persons, objects, flora/fauna, and cultural and linguistic items. Many of these items can now be viewed using our augmented reality handbook. The handbook allows the user to activate digital 3D models on their smart device when they are viewing the physical paper version of the handbook. In this way, users can physically read as well as experience a digital object. The app is available [here.]

The easiest way to experience our virtual world is via our videos that present visual and audio components of the virtual world. The can best be thought of as a virtual tour of the world. The videos appear on this page.

Fundamental Research

We are garnering new insights across the scholarly spectrum because ours is an interdisciplinary Annales School investigation that aims to understand the “whole” by employing all of our specialties. While the overarching Annalist approach is a historical one, it is flexible and interdisciplinary that, as H. R. Trevor-Roper states, “crosses all frontiers and uses all techniques…To recreate the totality of a society, past or present, to understand its delicate mechanism and yet to see it, not as a machine, but as a living organism.” Thus, we draw in many intellectual approaches. [Read more.]

Our innovation is to recenter humanity’s perspective about the purpose of technology – it prioritizes human reflection. One, we create a research process and information framework that supports the multi-modal layering of musical, environmental, linguistic, social, and cultural artifacts to generate novel, and dynamic interpretations of the past. Together, we build an integrated process that binds our individual research efforts and university courses into a whole, and manifests a new cadre of Augmented Reflection Scholars (undergraduate and graduate students). Two, we enhance understanding by presenting Native American, colonial Spanish, and culturally-hybridized virtual worlds that reflect new ways of perceiving our predecessors. In the most radical sense, even though we will re-create specific historical events in VR, it is very likely these “worldviews” will not appear (auditorily, visually, spatially, temporally) to be the same event. Put simply, we do not all see the same things. Three, we foster human reflection by memorializing — writing a new, augmented history — of Mexico, New Mexico, and Colorado by drawing the public into an experiential virtual learning environment.

cultural Research findings

Pedagogical Findings

Throughout the project, from raw searches in the archives and on-site visits; through collating and curating the data, to digital design, rendering, and scripting, the students have served as the core of the project. The product is the reflection of each student endeavoring to expand their own understanding of humanity and their part in it – to see themselves as inescapably rooted in the lives long  gone. Our multidisciplinary approach seeks to place the student at the center, empowering and encouraging a personal stake in the process and product to augment the human reflections of themselves. From photographing a potsherd, and wondering what it was like to walk in leather shoes – documenting sources to writing code in C#, our students become part of the people they study, and those people become part of the student. The worlds we’ve made are Augmented Reflections of the students who made them.

Video explorations

Student research

Research for the muster roll was conducted by the undergraduate students in HIST 3100: Digital History during spring 2019. The following posts explore different persons, objects, environment elements, and cultural-linguistic aspects of the coronado muster roll.

A Collaborative project

UCCS College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences - 2018 College Research Initiative

The project, directed on a day-to-day basis by UCCS Assoc. Prof. Roger Martinez (History), is led by five co-principal investigators including Assoc. Prof. Minette Church (Anthropology), Assoc. Prof. Fernando Feliu-Moggi (Languages and Cultures), Instructor Michael Larkin (GES), and Prof. Suzanne MacAulay (VAPA). To facilitate the cross-fertilization of ideas and extend our reach within LAS, our team includes two part-time collaborators: Asst. Prof. Samantha Christensen (History) and Assoc. Prof. Jane Rigler (VAPA).

The technical director of the project is Mr. Sean Wybrant of Palmer High School, D-11, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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