Three of the best augmented reality projects from the Tribeca Festival are available for everyone to enjoy — for free, no trip to New York required.
Why it matters
Whatever our metaverse future may be, artists’ experiences with AR can give you a glimpse into its more thoughtful possibilities.
took a backseat to virtual reality in the pandemic. , which block out the real world to immerse you in the virtual one, suddenly took on a new appeal when everything social shut down and we isolated ourselves at home. But now AR — which overlays the real world with digital embellishments — has regained one prominent stage to once again showcase its cutting edge: immersive personal experiences at major film festivals.
One of the latestin New York last month, for the first time in more than two years, she revived full-scale, personal installations of her Immersive curation. If you weren’t there, you probably missed them.
But three of Tribeca’s best AR art experiments are now available — for free — for anyone with a phone to check out.
One app, ReachYou, acts as a post-COVID meta-therapy guided by subtle, glitchy transmission from the future. Another, Emerging Radiance, gives voice to the murals of Japanese-Americans wrongfully imprisoned by the US government during World War II. And the third, Iago the Green Eyed Monster, performs a rock ‘n’ roll anthem that recasts Shakespeare’s infamous villain as a geeky woman fed up with arrogant dudes.
These experiences provide glimpses of what’s possible with AR, which you’ve probably interacted with through Instagram and other social media filters, or tried on digitized replicas of an Ikea sofa in your living room. The technology has often been at the forefront of mixed reality experimentation, getting new concepts into the hands of billions of people with phones rather than the minority who bother with headsets or ridiculously expensive prototypes of new hardware.
They are also a sample of what things look like if we are indeed destined to live in the metaverse ().
ReachYou feels like metatherapy sent from the metaverse.
Described as “a transmission from the future created for the tenderness of the present,” ReachYou is an AR experience that turns your phone into a portal that allows you to receive messages sent by meditative emissaries from the future and record your own meditations on a “human record.”
Katrina Goldsaito, one of the creators of the project, said that the team behind ReachYou created it “for strangers to connect with the things that are most important about being human and to make people wildly nostalgic for the world we live in.”
“If we’re living in a dystopia now, then we need more visions of protopias,” she said. Coined by Wired founding editor Kevin Kelly, the word describes a middle ground between the nightmare of dystopia and the unattainability—and stagnation—of utopia. Protopias hopes that technology will bring complicated progress towards a future that is better than the present.
In ReachYou’s protopia, progress involves connecting with self and others in “authentic and vulnerable” ways, Goldsaito said. The app — which is a free download for iPhones and iPads from Apple’s App Store, with an Android version in the works — also encourages us to slow down, be present and change our relationship with technology, she added.
ReachYou uses AR to allow you to place a rectangular “beacon” on the floor in front of you, which transforms into a floating cluster of onyx and a swirl of glowing orbs before transforming into a portrait window portal studded with star pins. Inside, the woman addresses you contemplatively about the “great release” and the nature of time, grief and gratitude. It prompts you to move closer and your phone vibrates at the connection point. He will ask you to hum softly to yourself and you will hear your vocal vibrations joining the chorus of others.
The end of the experience allows you to roam floating pyramids that rotate and unlock one of these public messages recorded by another archivist, as Goldsaito calls the participants. (You can choose to make your recordings public or for your ears only.) This field will remain in the app so you can return to it at any time, with new recordings to unlock, but beware: The entire “stream” will only be played once. Once you finish it, you can’t experience it again.
However, ReachYou has incoming new transmissions. For those who completed the first, the second will arrive on July 15; the next one will come on October 15th. The experience was designed to be episodic.
The ephemeral nature of each transmission was meant to make your moments of experience more meaningful, according to Goldsait.
“It’s a reminder that we only have this moment,” she said. “He asks that we take the time to make sure we listen carefully and fully.
If ReachYou delivers a transmission from the future, then Emerging Radiance will revive messages that were once locked away in the past.
Emerging Radiance’s AR brings to life the mural portraits of three Japanese-Americans who, in their own words and voices, share their experiences of forced relocation and illegal incarceration in American concentration camps during World War II. Creator Tani Ikeda said she wants their archival recordings, recorded long ago by her own father, to find new life in a medium that can carry these stories from the elders to the younger generation.
“We created our AR filters … so that anyone with Instagram could pick up their smartphone and hear each of our ancestors tell their stories,” she said.
The protagonists of Emerging Radiance all share the personal devastation experienced by incarceration as members of Bellevue, Washington’s Nikkei farming community. Rae Matsuoka Takekawa, for example, was the daughter of a community leader who helped organize Japanese-American farmers to get fair prices for their crops. In Emerging Radiance, Takekawa’s mural commemorates the night her father was arrested and kidnapped by the FBI within hours of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Ikeda said stories like Takekawa’s provide a “historical blueprint” for defying the current climate.
“When my grandfather was imprisoned, my cameras and everything that could be used to document what was happening inside the camps were taken from me,” she said. “Now that most concentration camp survivors are ancestors, this augmented reality mural gives our community back the ability to speak.”
Instagram owner Meta originally commissioned Michelle Kumata’s murals for their Bellevue office. Ikeda worked with Kamata to create AR filters that bring the mural’s subjects to life for anyone who has Instagram installed on their phone. You can listen to their stories by scanning any of the three QR codes on the project website.
Iago: The Green Eyed Monster
Since Shakespeare invented the villain for his tragic play Othello over 400 years ago, Iago is full of DGAF energy. This Iago shows it with crunchy guitars and blurred vocals instead of soliloquies.
Iago: The Green Eyed Monster reinterprets Iago as a modern soldier, transforming this miniature character study into a 3D animated AR rock’n’roll music video. This Iago may keep dropping the “period” and “shall” in her lines, but you don’t need to know anything about Shakespeare to understand what she’s mad about. “These men, these men, these men,” he growls.
Mary Chieffo, one of the creators, portrayed Iago as a man in 2015 in an all-female production of Othello, but wondered how Iago “would look as a modern military woman,” she said. “Our female Iago is consumed by her own jealousy and inner rage at being overlooked, turning her into a ‘green-eyed monster.’
The creators invite you to “be your own cameraman” and explore the AR scene as this performance of Iago unfolds. For Shakespeare fans, the experience is littered with Easter eggs related to the play. For others, it may be an opportunity to “go out on a Shakespearean verse with some thunderous music,” they said.
But beyond that, they hope the project will prompt reflection on how patriarchy and other systems of oppression can make “monsters” out of people who behave outside the boxes they’re prescribed to stay in.
Iago: The Green Eyed Monster was produced with the backing of Verizon as well as Viola Davis’ JuVee Productions, which she founded with her husband, actor Julius Tennon. It’s not the first time the Oscar-winning production company has dabbled in Shakespearean mixed reality: It produced a VR series pilot called Operation: Othello that premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. Joshua Nelson Youssef, head of immersive and JuVee creator behind Green Eye Monster, Davis said, “retired to other worlds in her trailer on the set of How to Get Away with Murder” with her VR headset.
The Green Eyed Monster AR app is available for both Apple iOS and Android devices. The creators recommend the iPad in landscape orientation 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 that watching young women engage with Iago: The Green Eyed Monster during Tribeca Fest gave her hope that “they can see it as a means of embracing their inner monster in a healthy way rather than repressing it. “
“I hope this piece does what all great art should do – and certainly what Shakespeare was trying to do in his time: to allow us to examine ourselves through heightened expression to inspire action in the real world in which we live .”