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Artists Take On Augmented Reality

AR on the Streets of Los Angeles

Augmented Reality is well known to NASA and hardcore techies but now artists and gamers have begun to flex the boundaries of this tempting new medium which allows viewers to mix the real with the surreal.

The result are experiences which are not tied to desktop computers – or art galleries.

Last September the streets of LA were filled with teams of people searching for virtual portals in Google’s AR game, “Ingress”.  In February, the Heavy Projects and artist Raymond Harmon created a skyline mural mirage in DTLA.   This month, John Craig Freeman, is giving guided tours of his  Art + Technology AR artwork on the streets of LA.

Jenny Carden (Zenka), who has been making augmented reality street art in LA for two years, brought her work inside to demonstrate the evolution of augmented-reality technology over the last 50 years.

For the uninitiated, augmented reality (AR) is the ability to see 3D, animated objects integrated into the real world through a camera-like app on your smartphone, ipad or tablet.  AR glasses will soon make the experience hands free.

How Did We Get Here?

Zenka became fascinated by the “road to VR” – how we got from totally awkward university projects in the 1960’s to the massive arcade VR of the 90’s to the sleek prototypes which Microsoft, Sony, Google, Samsung, Facebook and others will be releasing next year.

augmented reality timeline

When Ivan Sutherland conceived of VR, he said it would be like “a looking glass into a mathematical wonderland” – a place where traditional physics would take a back seat.  He was right.  Augmented & virtual reality will not only allow us to skydive in space and teletransport to Paris for a virtual meeting, but it will allow us to grow virtual leopard tails, have Italian subtitles in any movie, and teach us to juggle without chasing dropped balls.

AR is Not About Leaving the World Behind

Zenka believes that AR is much more than gaming apps.  She believes AR will liberate us from being cooped up indoors, chained to a laptop.  “What about going to a lush park where you can feel the breeze while watching extinct animals (or dragons) pass through the trees?” or “What about a desert oasis just outside of LA where you could go walk around the sand and see decadent mirages created by artists”, suggested Zenka.

Zenka, along with many other artists, plan on taking augmented reality art to the next level now that the technology and hardware is mature.  Her current show at the District Gallery includes 32 raku sculptures depicting AR and VR (virtual reality) goggles of the last 50 years.

zenka VR heads

She has recently completed a web-based timeline of the sculptures and also of the tech industry.

zenka-timeline

The District Gallery, located in the heart of the LA Arts District, is displaying her work through April 26th.  The exhibit has Google Cardboard VR headsets and tablets available for people who want to experience AR for the first time. The curator for the Delta Air Lines Sky Club acquired 10 pieces from the show for future exhibition.

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