After years of anonymity, Chanel Miller, the survivor of the Brock Turner assault, has stepped out from the shadows to tell her story. Stanford has silenced her. However, its students are helping her share her story through augmented reality.
Stanford senior Khoi Le, and recent graduates Hope Schroeder and Kyle Qian, are the brains behind Dear Visitor. They created the AR-powered mobile app to honor Miller’s story and initiate conversations about sexual assault.
“We are a group of Stanford students who believe in the power of augmented reality to reshape
the way we remember history in public spaces. We believe that augmented reality can democratize
public spaces by capturing the collective memory of a space. Since there are no regulations specifying
who owns digital space anchored in the real world, augmented reality belongs to everyone,” says the team in a statement shared with ARPost.
Dear Visitor, Adding Context to Stanford’s Contemplative Garden
Augmented reality has many applications across a wide range of fields, one of which is social justice. AR has the power to add much-needed context to monuments or memorials such as Stanford’s garden. It reshapes how society perceives and remembers history.
That’s why Dear Visitor exists. The team used TorchAR to design an AR experience, which places a virtual plaque with words from Miller’s victim impact statement, a promise Stanford never fulfilled. Students will set up the virtual memorial at the Emily Doe contemplative garden, the site of the assault. Emily Doe was actually Chanel Miller’s pseudonym until just recently, when she decided to reveal her identity.
We are a group of Stanford students who believe in the power of augmented reality to reshape the way we remember history in public spaces.
Students created Dear Visitor to reopen conversations about a pervasive issue present in many college campuses across the country. They made it to educate visitors on the significance of the site, preventing passersby from abusing or disrespecting it. They also developed the app in the hope of preserving students’ memory about the assault.
Dear Visitor exemplifies augmented reality’s capacity to forge connections, nurture empathy, and promote healing through immersive experiences.
Reopening the Conversation About Sexual Assault
Miller survived an assault by Brock Turner, a Stanford student at the time of the incident. One night in 2015, he happened to attend the same fraternity party as Miller. Instead of helping Miller while she was unconscious behind a dumpster, he took advantage of her. He was caught by two Swedish students who chased him and held him down until police arrived.
A year later, a jury found Turner guilty of three counts of felony sexual assault. However, he received a lenient sentence from Judge Aaron Persky. He sentenced him to only six months in prison, of which he served half. In addition, Turner received a three-year probation sentence, which is set to expire at the end of this year.
Following Turner’s release, Stanford decided to re-landscape the site of the assault. They set up a contemplative garden in honor of Miller. They also promised to put up a plaque with a quote of her choosing from her victim impact statement. However, the plaque was never installed because the administration rejected the quotes that Miller proposed.
Instead, Stanford proposed alternatives such as “I’m right here, I’m okay, everything’s okay, I’m right here.”
Currently, the administration has no plans to deliver its promise. Their inaction inspired a group of students to fulfill what Stanford had promised, using augmented reality.
“Through Dear Visitor, we want to center Chanel Miller’s voice in this space as it was originally intended. We
hope to reopen the conversation about this urgent issue on campus and show that AR can help us add
context to spaces like this,” said the team behind Dear Visitor.
Dear Visitor launches today, September 27, with an event starting at 1 pm PDT at the Emily Doe Contemplative Garden at Stanford University campus.