Mobile AR at After Dark
by Rob Rothfarb • February 15, 2011
Over the past month, I've been developing some mobile augmented reality exhibit prototypes for the Exploratorium's After Dark: Get Surreal event. The interactive installations were designed to stimulate play and social interaction using the mixed reality of After Dark visitors using their mobile phones to explore the program theme, in this case surrealism in art and science. Mobile AR overlays virtual images with the real world using smartphones like iPhone and Android. I used an AR platform called Junaio to publish an Exploratorium "channel" for our event that contained four "locative" elements/sculptures that I made using 3D computer graphic models, photographic images, and scripting. Junaio is a free mobile AR browser from a company called Metaio. Each of the 3D objects that people could see when they scanned a 2D marker image marking the exhibit location had either an audio composition or a video attached to it which streamed through the browser. "Magritte Me" - allows people to stage their own version of surrealist Renee Magritte's "The Son of Man" with a floating bowler hat and apple. This was definitely the favorite and drew a lot of attention. It plays an original audio composition by Exploratorium collaborator Wayne Grim called "dflux theme".
"Odalilps" - allows people to stage their own version of surrealist Man Ray's ""Observatory Time - The Lovers"", in which the figure of a woman reclines on a couch pointing up to a painting on the wall behind her that has a mysterious set of disembodied lips. It has an original audio composition by Wayne Grim called "Perch". This was done inside of another Exploratorium exhibit informally called the sodium or bridgelight room which contains two bright sodium lights. When acclimated to the lights, you see everything in a yellow-grey tinted monochromatic palette. We use the room to let visitors explore the effects of different wavelengths of light. The virtual object is the lips (in red), floating above a fainting couch visitors could lay on. "Andre le GeAnt" - a giant blue ant crawling off of our Mezzanine level that speaks in French in the voice of Andre Breton from an interview he gave in 1950 about the surrealist philosophy. Ants feature prominently in Salvador Dali works. My blue ant also references a company called Blue Ant which features prominently in the current trilogy by author William Gibson--my favorite cyberpunk author and whose stories introduced me to locative art. "Redisintegration No 1" - a new original virtual sculpture I created which pays homage to Salvador Dali's "The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory" and plays a surreal video I made in 1996 called "Psychometry" along with an original audio composition by the same name that I'd made at the University of South Florida years ago.