Augmented Reality Augmenting The Art World

<p>We take a look at some of the most interesting AR projects to date.</p>

Sep 8 2010, 3:24pm

It’s no secret that we’re fascinated with developments in augmented reality here at The Creators Project. We’ve featured the real-word virtual modification technology in the work of fashion designer and creator Carrie Mundane (aka Cassette Playa), as well as the graphic T-shirts of DJ Hell (another upcoming creator), and the visionary speculative 3D augmented reality film by Keiichi Matsuda, as well as the interactive 3D drawing display [Z]ink at our Creators Project launch events, but we have a feeling that the best is yet to come for this emerging field.

Predictably, some of the most fascinating, forward-thinking and aesthetically stunning applications of the technology are being developed and piloted by artists. Here are a few of our favorite AR art projects:

Helen PapagiannisThe Amazing Cinemagician: New Media Meets Victorian Magic

Papagiannis is a designer and researcher specializing in augmented reality (AR) technology, but what differentiates her from the rest of the AR geeks (aside from her very impressive PhD) is her ability to locate the futuristic tech in the familiar, which is the mark of a great designer. For her recent exhibition at the Ontario Science Centre, Papagiannis created an installation that merged the virtual capabilities of AR with the sensibilities of Victorian-era sleight-of-hand and card tricks shows, as well as a video montage homage to early film great, George Méliès. Papagiannis says she is interested in exploring AR’s potential to create new forms of storytelling and her melding of old and new tech, effectively integrating the new technology in the old technology’s story line, is an important aspect of what makes her work so instantly relatable and accessible to viewers.

Mark Skwarek and Joseph HockingThe Leak In Your Home Town

The ability to superimpose additional information on a physical object is one of the most exciting aspects of AR, and one that is utilized to convey a poignant political message by artists Skwarek and Hocking. Although the BP oil scandal has died down considerably since the oil flow in the Gulf has been (finally) put to a stop, it was arguably the largest national disaster we’ve witnessed since Katrina. Still, both the government and the public seemed relatively unphased by the travesty, likely because it didn’t seem to affect them directly. Hocking and Skwarek’s iPhone app art piece hopes to eliminate that sense of distance by confronting the viewer with the realities of that gaping oil hole under the sea every time they see a BP logo, turning the logo into a tube hemorrhaging barrels of oil. The app is an interesting demonstration of how AR can be used to overcome the limitations of the physical world and make seemingly distant objects or information feel more immediate and relevant.

Grosse8 and LichtfrontAugmented Sculpture

Perhaps one of the most fascinating applications of AR is its ability to modify physical structures and environments. For this year’s Interior Design Week in Cologne, designers Grosse8 and Lichtfront created an sculptural AR installation aptly titled “Augmented Sculpture.” The piece consisted of a 2.5m tall wooden sculpture that served as a screen for a 360° projection system which displayed abstract geometric visuals designed to fit the proportions of the 3D structure. This kind of projection mapping has been making our jaws drop a lot recently, and in particular, we were recently blown away by a hyper-realistic 3D projection on a building in Amsterdam (see video below). With the absence of the intermediary devices typically necessary for AR—such as an iPhone screen, glasses, headgear, etc.—the lines between virtual and physical reality become all the more blurred, making AR feel all the more real.

NuFormer – Samsung, Amsterdam, May 2010 from NuFormer Projection on Vimeo.

But we want to hear from you — What are some of the most interesting applications of AR that you’ve seen recently? And do you think it’s here to stay? Or will it go the way of virtual reality video games and prove to be nothing more than a passing fad doomed for extinction? Post your thoughts below!