At Festival of the Impossible, Artists Augment Reality to Tell Fresh Stories

General Tech


Walking into the new art exhibit centered around augmented reality and virtual reality storytelling, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the alternate dimensions that had been built.

The exhibit, Festival of the Impossible, is showing at Minnesota Street Project galleries in San Francisco, California, through this weekend. The show features new works by artists breaking boundaries in these relatively new digital mediums.

Learning that the artists were given these VR and AR platforms to stage their concepts made me believe the creations were meant to show off the hardware and software innovations, and to demonstrate the potential of the new tech. After experiencing each artists’ work, however, I realized the creations were not just technology demos, but that they gave the artists a chance to express their own ingenuity with technology in a way that’s never been this easy, nor this real.

Step Inside

Each artist in the exhibit gets their own open space where the audience can wander into their imagination. Some artists told stories on iPads using augmented reality, with the screen showing the view through the camera transformed, in one case, to show the room on fire or drenched in rain.

In another artist’s space, I pointed the iPad’s camera at small, 3-D printed beds. The view in AR showed Sims-like figures sleeping with their realistic dreams playing out above them. Some dreamed of giant spiders; others, the nightmare of a computer that won’t stop buffering.

Some of the artists made their work more personal. Judit Navratil used AR to revisit her childhood home through a video that incorporated her deepest memories, including talks with her grandmother. With just about every installation, it would have been easy (and fascinating) to spend way too much time exploring every detail.

New World, New Tools

Every time a new technological medium comes along, the art world asks: How can we use this for storytelling? The art world will adapt to these new mediums, but someone has to test the waters first.

That’s where Adobe comes in. Just this week, Adobe, in partnership with Apple and Pixar, launched the augmented reality authoring tool Project Aero. This new piece of desktop software is intended to let designers and developers create AR experiences in a simple, standardized environment. Project Aero incorporates tools with which creators are already familiar, such as Adobe Photoshop CC and the 3-D design tool Adobe Dimension CC. Project Aero aims to give people of different backgrounds and disciplines the freedoms to bring others into their worlds through AR, telling stories and presenting ideas in a fresh way.

Adobe is a sponsor of Festival of the Impossible, and the event coincides with the launch of the new software and with Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, which happened this week in San Jose, California.



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