Again, this week’s Artist of the Week (AoTW) isn’t about a specific artist but a conceptual exploration of Augmented Reality.
I hadn’t heard of “augmented reality” until this morning and wouldn’t have thought to even look into it except for Air Artists tweeted about it a little over a million times. Perhaps this is an indictment of my limited attention span because I’m sure there were several other interesting things that were only mentioned once, but AR was the winner due to super saturation.
Augmented Reality: A Definition
Not knowing what AR was, I naturally turned to what source? Wikipedia–home of marginally accurate and partially vetted information about nearly every topic on the planet:
Augmented reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. source
Dismissing for the moment the philosophical notion concerning the nature of how “reality” is enhanced or diminished via a mediating device, I think that the above definition gives a pretty good idea about what AR is–although it is important to consider that with most evolving technology, the definition of such is largely fluid.
Augmented Reality: Applications
Now AR can be and is being used to enhance or augment a host of disciplines: medicine, architecture, military, navigation, etc. AR’s artistic applications are present but still somewhat limited. An interesting development called the Eyewriter Project uses basic technology to help paralyzed artists continue to create. Check out the video to see it in action:
Other current artistic applications include enhanced books in which a regular book becomes a 3-d virtual experience.
Augmented Reality: Future Applications
Although the present applications are intriguing, the real excitement comes when considering the future applications of this promising technology. The following video is a conceptual demonstrates of an iPhone app that helps with navigation (keep in mind this video is a demonstration, not an available app).
The demo in the above video is somewhat rudimentary (and very shaky–did the camera guy drink like seven cups of coffee?!). However, despite being in its infancy, AR has tremendous potential particularly when coupled with portable tech devices such as the iPhone. Imagine entering a museum and having a wealth of information at your fingertips. Simply view a painting, sculpture, or whatever through your device, and a host of academic info, user contributed comments, artist bio, other pieces in the artist’s oeuvre, and a slew of other info can enhance your experience. The following video gives an idea of the multilayered capabilities of AR technology–just imagine that instead of a city, it is in a museum:
Augmented Reality: Future Artistic Applications
I also know that the art creation process will be influenced by AR technology. I can’t imagine in what specific ways this technology will influence artists but, among other things, the collaborative potential is greatly enhanced. Real time contributions and audience interaction/participation potential are both easily facilitated. Further, a “virtual layer” can be superimposed over existing geographic locales and architecture which can be manipulated in ways yet unforseen.
This “meta-reality” created by AR technology has limitless potential which will become further enhanced as AR tech’s latency narrows and it moves more rapidly into the realm of the mainstream. It’s happening now and it will revolutionize how information is handled. AR applications, to put it bluntly, will have an immeasurable and revolutionary impact across the board and its potential is very exciting!
The band, MUSE has supplemented their tour program with an AR component. More info here: http://muse.mu/news/article/684/the-augmented-reality-programme–now-online/
ARToolWorks: A company that develops software to help artists create AR based creations. Cool stuff.
ARToolKit: Free software for the creation of AR applications. Since the site came out in 1999, some of the info is kind of old and a few of the links are broken. Also, exercise caution when downloading software because it may contain malware, blah blah blah.
More free software can be found here: FREE
Here’s a blog that covers AR related news and views aptly titled Augmented Reality Blog
A few academic resources:
- R. Azuma, A Survey of Augmented Reality
- Mediated Reality with implementations for everyday life
- Wagner, Daniel (September 29, 2009). “First Steps Towards Handheld Augmented Reality