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Augment Your Artistic Game

Augmented reality is gaining traction as a tool for education and an avenue for entertainment, but there’s another industry where AR is capable of achieving something completely new: art.

Artists will always be at the cutting edge of technology even while they hand-grind pigments to create oils using the same techniques pioneered thousands of years ago. One of the beautiful things about art, in fact, is its ability to bridge eras. An Impressionist painting can be brought to life in virtual reality; a silent film can be colourized and dubbed; and art can come to life on smartphones and tablets.

Here are just a few projects using AR to create new and thoughtful works of art for the modern generation.

Augmenting Classic Art

This is one of the most common ways we’re seeing art galleries and museums embrace AR. In its most boring form, the museum creates simple AR tags that react to smartphones or tablets, displaying visual or auditory information in response to the tag (or the painting itself), sort of like a simplistic guided tour. More innovative versions, however, are taking that idea to the next level, creating responsive versions of static art. A great example of this is the Art Gallery of Ontario, whose ReBlink exhibit has animated versions of classic art triggered by tablets. The subjects of portraits come to life, minimally interacting with guests.

An AR tour is a simplistic, albeit effective, use of AR. Something like ReBlink takes that standard experience and brings it up to the next level, creating art that is engaging (literally!), with the bones of classic fine art.

Augmenting Modern Art

Classic art is the purview of museums and city galleries, but what about the art being created in shared spaces and tiny studios around cities? More and more artists are playing with AR as a means to bring another level to their art, and they’re doing it all across the world. Take Josue Abraham’s ‘Virtualidades’, in which mystical creatures appear in AR when devices are pointed at his original sculptures. In this case the artist has created a new physical work specifically to interact with a new digital work.

This is a great avenue for artists to explore because it gives them a unique element in a crowded space. It also provides the “base experience” for non-technical users, while adding content for those who wish to engage with the extra level of the experience.

Augmenting AR Art

The other side of the above coin is the idea of creating art solely for the purpose of augmenting it. Think a painting that you buy, for your house, and then you can hold your phone up and the painting becomes an animation. This is a pretty niche market, but EyeJack thinks it has a future. They’re also putting on gallery shows, but their focus seems to be on the sale of physical items with augmented features. If you want to know what the posters will look like augmented, you can game the system by downloading the app on your phone and holding it up to a digital copy of the poster on your computer screen. That way you can decide if the animation is something you want on your walls. The comic book is an especially exciting use of AR, and one we’ve been seeing more and more of this past year.

Augmenting Blank Spaces

What if you don’t have access to the spaces mentioned above? Maybe you live in a small town where there are no experimental, cutting edge galleries. Maybe your roommates don’t want you to put up a weird cat poster just so you can flash your phone at it to augment it. No worries! Companies like Art.com are bringing you the ability to hang art on entirely blank walls. Never again will you get into an argument with your spouse about whether your velvet clown painting is “retro” or “the stuff of nightmares”! Just hang it virtually, and enjoy it through the magic of AR. Granted, services like Art.com are more interested in helping you decide if a piece fits the scope and size of your room, so you can then buy it and hang the physical version, but don’t let them tell you what to do!

Written by Wren Handman for www.hammerandtusk.com.

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