What is happening
Three of Tribeca Festival’s best augmented reality projects are accessible to everyone—free, no trip to New York required.
Why is it important?
Whatever our future holds for the Metaverse, artists’ AR experiences can give you a glimpse of its more thoughtful possibilities.
In the pandemic, virtual reality took a back seat. Blocking out the real world to immerse you in the virtual world suddenly commanded a new attraction when everything was socially shut down and we isolated ourselves at home. But now, with digital embellishments covering the real world, AR has won a prominent stage to once again demonstrate its cutting edge: immersive personal experiences at major film festivals.
One of the latestLast month in New York, for the first time in more than two years, Immersive curated full-blown, personal installations. If you weren’t there, you probably missed them.
But three of Tribeca’s best AR art experiences are now free — anyone with a phone can experience them.
One app, ReachYou, feels like post-COVID metatherapy, driven by a subtle, flawed transmission from the future. Another, Emerging Radiance, gives voice to murals of Japanese-Americans wrongly imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II. The third, Iago, the Green-Eyed Monster, plays a rock ‘n’ roll anthem that reimagines Shakespeare’s famous villain as a queer woman fed up with haughty friends.
These experiences give glimpses of what’s possible with AR, which you’re likely interacting with through Instagram and other social media filters, or trying out digital replicas of an Ikea sofa in your living room. Instead of a niche minority concerned with headsets or ridiculously expensive new hardware prototypes, the technology has often been at the forefront of mixed reality experiences, putting new concepts into the hands of billions of phone owners.
They’re also a tease of what things might look like if we’re truly destined to live in a metaverse ().
ReachYou feels like metatherapy sent from the metaverse.
Described as “transmission from the future built for the subtlety of the present,” ReachYou is an AR experience that turns your phone into a portal to both receive messages sent by a forward-thinking emissary and record your own thoughts about “”. human record.”
Katrina Goldsaito, one of the project’s founders, said the team behind ReachYou created it “for strangers to connect about what’s most important about being human and to make people feel intense nostalgia for the world we live in now.”
“If we’re living in a dystopia now, then we need more visions of protopias,” he said. Coined by Wired’s founding editor Kevin Kelly, the word describes a middle ground between the nightmare of dystopia and the inaccessibility and stagnation of utopia. Protopias hope that technology will make a complex advance towards a better future than the present.
In ReachYou’s protopia, progress involves connecting to yourself and others in “authentic and sensitive” ways, Goldsaito said. He added that Apple’s App store has a free download for iPhones and iPads and a version for Android — encouraging us to slow down, be present and change our relationship with technology.
ReachYou uses AR to allow you to place a rectangular “beacon” on the floor in front of you, which transforms into a cluster of floating onyx and a swirl of glowing orbs before morphing into a cameo window portal adorned with needles of stars. Inside, a woman thoughtfully addresses you about “the great release” and the nature of time, grief and gratitude. It beckons you to come closer and your phone vibrates at the point of contact. He asks you to hum softly and you hear your own vocal vibrations joining the chorus of others.
The end of the experience, as Goldsaito calls participants, allows them to wander around floating pyramids that rotate and unlock one of these public messages recorded by another Archivist. (You can choose to make your recordings public or for your ears only.) This area remains in the app for you to revisit whenever you want with new recordings to unlock, but beware: The full “transmission” will only be played once. When you’re done, you can’t relive it.
However, fresh transmissions are coming at ReachYou. For those who completed the first, the second was scheduled to arrive on Friday; another will follow on October 15th. The experience is designed to be episodic.
According to Goldsaito, the ephemeral nature of each transmission was intended to make your moments in the experience more purposeful.
“It’s just a reminder that we have this moment,” he said. “It asks us to take the time to make sure we listen carefully and fully.”
If ReachYou transmits from the future, then Emerging Radiance revives messages locked in the past.
Altering Instagram filters, Emerging Radiance’s AR brings to life wall portraits of three Japanese-Americans who share their experiences of forced relocation and illegal incarceration in US concentration camps in their own words and in their own voices. II war. Creator Tani Ikeda said she wanted the archival recordings her father recorded long ago to find new life in a medium where these stories could be passed on from the elders to the younger generation.
“We created our AR filters … so that anyone with Instagram can hold up their smartphone and hear the stories of each of our ancestors,” he said.
All members of the Nikkei farming community of Bellevue, Washington, the protagonists of Emerging Radiance share the personal devastation they experience as they are incarcerated. Rae Matsuoka Takekawa, for example, was the daughter of a leader in this community, and she helped organize Japanese-American farmers so they could buy their produce at a fair price. Takekawa’s mural in Emerging Radiance commemorates the night her father was briefly arrested and kidnapped by the FBI just hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Ikeda said stories like Takekawa’s provide a “historical road map” to challenge the current climate..
“When my grandfather was in prison, cameras and anything that could be used to document what happened in the camps was taken away,” he said. “Now that many concentration camp survivors are ancestors, this augmented reality wall is giving back the ability to speak to our society.”
Meta Open Arts — the art program of Meta, owner of Instagram — originally commissioned the mural by Michelle Kumata for its Bellevue office. Ikeda worked with Kamata to develop AR filters that bring the wall’s themes to life for people who have Instagram installed on their phones. You can listen to their stories by scanning any of the three QR codes on the project’s website.
Iago: The Green-Eyed Monster
Since Shakespeare invented the villain for his tragic play Othello over 400 years ago, Iago runs deep with DGAF energy. This Iago shows him off with crunchy guitars and hushed vocals instead of soliloquies.
Iago: The Green-Eyed Beast reinterprets Iago as a modern-day female soldier, turning this miniaturized character study into a 3D-animated AR rock ‘n’ roll music video. This Iago may still drop “doth” and “shall” in his words, but you don’t need to know anything about Shakespeare to understand that he’s pissed off. “These men, these men, these men,” he shouts.
Co-creator Mary Chieffo cast Iago as a man in the 2015 all-female production of Othello, but she wondered how Iago would “look as a modern military woman”. “Our woman consumes Iago with her jealousy and inner rage at being overlooked, turning him into a ‘green-eyed monster.'”
The creators encourage you to “be your own cinematographer” and explore the AR scene as this play of Iago plays out. For Shakespeare fans, the experience is full of play-related Easter eggs. For others, it might be an opportunity to “sing out a Shakespearean poem set to some raucous music,” they said.
But more than that, they hope the project will raise awareness of how patriarchy and other systems of oppression can make “monsters” out of people who behave outside the confines they’re assigned to stay within.
Iago: The Green Eyed Monster is produced by Verizon, as well as backing from Viola Davis’ JuVee Productions, which she founded with her husband, actor Julius Tennon. This isn’t the first time the Oscar-winning production company Shakespeare has dabbled in mixed reality: It produced a VR series pilot called Operation: Othello that premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. Joshua Nelson Youssef, JuVee’s head of immersive and Eyed Monster, creator of Green, said Davis will be drawn into other worlds in a trailer on the set of “How to Get Away with Murder” with a VR headset.
Green Eyed Monster’s AR app is available for both Apple iOS and Android devices. The creators recommend landscape orientation iPad with headphones for the best experience. (The bigger screen definitely makes a difference.) The song can also be streamed on Spotify and other services. They even have a Snapchat Lens.
Chieffo said watching young women engage with Iago: The Green-Eyed Monster during Tribeca Fest gave her hope that “they might see it as a way to embrace their inner monster in a healthy way, rather than stifle it.”
“I hope this work does what all great art should do – and certainly Shakespeare tried to do in his day: allow ourselves to be examined through elevated expression to inspire action in the real world we live in.”