Saturday, 23 October 2010

Artists Use Augmented Reality to Hack Public Space

Augmented reality technology is starting to mature, creating increasing complex and imaginative sedimentary layers onto our lived environment.

We can see this in the emergence of urban augmented reality projects, which explore what Bruce Sterling refers to as "atemporality" - where the past, present and the future collide in a collaged moment.
Among the leading applications in this field are the likes of The Museum of London's "Streetmuseum" app and Sarah & Arthur Cox's "A Time Traveller's Guide".

Alongside these attempts to overlay the present with the past, is a trend amongst artists to augment - or improve - our cities' often overly commercial facades. One such example is the art project, "The Artvertiser", created by Berlin-based New Zealander, Julian Oliver. It imagines a near-future where advertising in public space can be replaced by art. It consists of custom-made handheld binocular devices and specially designed software. The Artvertiser considers Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, Puerta del Sol in Madrid, Times Square in New York, and other sites dense with advertisements, as potential exhibition space. The Artvertiser software recognises individual advertisements, each of which become a virtual 'canvas' displaying artworks when viewed through the Artvertiser binoculars. The Artvertiser allows artists to create a new visual layer onto the topology of the city, which can only be seen when viewed through a device which cogently blends the aesthetics of the past, with a futuristic functionality.

A number of other artists are also using augmented reality to allow the public to subvert or remove the logos and adverts that are all around us. The New Scientist recently reported on the work of US artists Mark Skwarek and Jeff Crouse, alongside Julian Oliver's work. The article notes:

"New York artist Jeff Crouse has designed a program called Unlogo, which detects corporate logos in a video stream, then replaces them [...] Mark Skwarek, is using AR to make a political point about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The Leak in your Home Town is a smartphone app that overlays an animation of a leaking oil pipe over BP logos in gas stations or on billboards. [He] describes it as a kind of benign graffiti."

"Technology-inspired artists have designed ways for you to mask or perhaps even delete company logos in your field of view as you wander around a city or shopping centre."


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