[AR]T: creating augmented reality

On the 5th March the day had finally come, we arrived at the Riverfront for the most sought after workshop of the Spring Term, creating augmented reality in response to the built environment, with techno magicians Pyka. The built environment that we were to focus on during the session would be the constantly growing and evolving urban centre of Newport, with it’s varied architecture, beautifully framed and reflected through the many glass surfaces of the Riverfront.

creating augmented reality

Pyka are a creative tech company working in education and arts. They develop artistic digital tools providing creative experiences in a number of different settings including schools, galleries, museums and heritage sites. Leading the session were Miles, their software developer, and interdisciplinary artist, Leigh. Right off the bat Miles announced to the group that they don’t believe that technology will save the world. Had we heard that right? In fact Pyka believe that good people with good ideas will, and that technology can pay a valuable role in supporting people to realise something wonderful and profound.

creating augmented reality
creating augmented reality

Mile’s introduction to the world of augmented reality was both enlightening and mind-blowing in equal measure. This served to break down our misconceptions and introduce what augmented reality really is, in the most basic terms. Upon hearing the term augmented reality, most people think about walking around town holding out your mobile phone to look for Pokamon. According to Pyka, AR is simply to “increase or enhance existing reality”. So what is reality? When trying to answer this question we find that there exists gaps between what we know to be real through our sensed experience and what we are told is real, what we’ve seen in pictures rather than experienced a first hand. If you’ve never been to the North Pole, how do you know it exists? In fact, what we know and what we think we know is our reality. Our stories, the stories we are told become that reality. Therefore, reality is that which is true, and AR is “to enhance what is true.” Going on to look at art, we find that site-specific art, even though it might not use digital media is also enhancing what is true.

creating augmented reality

Leigh follows on to introduce the creative process as mirrored in the statements of what matters in the Expressive Arts AoLE, and how we might approach this process using augmented reality. According to Pyka the framework can be worded as explore, capture, create. First, we explore our surroundings while trying to “remain free of the burden of making”, asking ourselves “what am I seeing?” Following this we ideate, opening our minds to possibilities, asking ourselves simply “what could it be?” The final stage is the pure act of creation, continually posing the question “what is being made?”

creating augmented reality
creating augmented reality

During the break Leigh demonstrated his artwork, a large cardboard augmented reality windmill. While the windmill looks like a simple kinetic sculpture it is embedded with a network of hidden wires that feed into an Arduino, this then feeds into a laptop running Ableton Live, an audio workstation. The kinetic a elements of the sculpture trigger a series of sounds in the computer, and as different kinetic elements of the windmill stop and start, music is created.

creating augmented reality

Following this came the practical part of the workshop and a chance to put the explore, capture, create framework into practice. We are given a choice, we could use iPads and work digitally or chalk pens to draw onto the glass surfaces. The iPads can create enhanced realities using only the most basic built-in apps, we use the iPad to take photographs and then through the editing function we can select markup, which allows us to draw into the image with our fingers, using different colours and tools. Those of us who opted for chalk pens use the may glass surfaces to enhance the urban backdrop, with both text and image.

creating augmented reality

Elizabeth Burrage enjoyed “thinking about the creative process” as something she could pass on to her learners. Andrea Carney commented; “today has made me look at AR differently,” and enjoyed “exploring the space with no preconceived ideas.” Hannah Roberts stated she “would be interested in taking this to another level, extending what we learned today.”

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