Augmented Reality: the perfect tool for artists

We spoke with Trevor Jones, an artist and director of Creativtek to get his views of AR and art. Creativtek has developed the Creativmuse platform which enables artists to add AR to their artwork. Trevor believes that art is about communicating ideas and that AR is a perfect tool for artists.

Tell us a little about your work and what drew you towards using Augmented Reality as part of your art practice?

Art is about communicating ideas and, of course, artists are curious as to how viewers engage with and respond to their work. Therefore, AR seems to me a perfect tool for artists. With regards to technology and, in particular, digital communication I’ve always tended to be an ‘early adopter’ and so it made sense to explore how I could use these interests to more actively engage viewers. I began painting QR codes early 2012 and with my friend David Oxley, an IT and systems developer, we built a website that could be accessed by scanning each of the paintings. This website was in part an online art gallery that other artists from around the world could upload their own images and contact details to, comment on artwork, or share it etc, thereby transforming my QR code paintings into digital portals to an entire community of artists. I found this added dimension to traditional painting really exciting and so I continued to look for new ways to add technological innovation to my work.

In 2013 a friend of mine began working for Blippar, a London-based augmented reality company. Immediately, David and I sat down to find out if I could integrate AR with my practice and I painted my first piece in April of that year. It’s been a long process with a steep learning curve having initially worked with AR platforms Layar and then Metaio (which was bought out by Apple last year) until eventually, we decided to find investment and build our own AR platform, Creativmuse, which we launched in April of this year.  

Augmented Reality has huge commercial potential, but it’s role in the creative industries - be it design, architecture or painting also has similarly huge potential. What do you think is the key asset of AR that allows it to be such a valuable creative medium?

There’s a great quote I often use when I talk about why I incorporate AR with my work that really says it all, “Augmented reality reduces the friction between intention and action”. Very simply it’s about providing your viewers with quick access to information and then, seamlessly offering them an opportunity to further engage with it in some way. We live in a world in which we voraciously consume information and we expect it at the touch of a fingertip. With AR, creatives can very easily provide digital content such as video, images, music, or animation to better communicate concepts like working processes or the inspiration behind the art. Additionally, that all-important ‘call-to-action’ is only a click away so the creator has the opportunity to lead the viewer down paths such as gamification, alternate ‘storylines’ or to further information such as ‘find out more here’ or ‘buy now’. Moreover, as the technology is still quite new to the general public, whether it’s a painting, a building design, or a product, AR has that visual WOW factor that has been proven to capture people’s attention and to hold it for longer.

Digital art forms have been around for a while now, but how do you think Augmented Reality will influence the arts? Could it be a new artistic movement like Impressionism or Dadaism?

I would like to think that all art colleges will be encouraging or, at the very least, providing their students with the opportunity to use AR in their practice within the next 5 or 6 years. Saying that, unlike the tech world, the art establishment tends to be quite averse to change and innovation and so it may be closer to 10 years. I also believe that once wearables such as AR glasses become mainstream, it would be crazy for artists to not develop their digital practice and benefit from it – unless he or she is making a personal anti-technology statement, which of course will happen as well.

When I created my first AR painting in 2013 I could only find online a handful of other artists throughout the world that were exploring the technology but this is slowly changing and eventually, when more and more artists begin incorporating some form of AR (or VR) with their work I guess it may be seen as a ‘movement’ but perhaps one that will be recognised more as an overarching influence rather than an out and out ‘ism’. The great thing about AR is that an artist doesn’t have to change their working style when using it, whether it be painting, sculpture, dance, illustration or installation – the AR dimension can be as transformative to the work or as subtle as they like.

Finally, any advice for those who wish to get involved with AR in both commercial or art practice? How available is such a new technology to entrepreneurs and creatives?

There are a number of AR platforms around and each with pros and cons. Two of the main drawback with using AR at the moment – especially for creatives – is cost and encouraging viewer interaction ie. the process needs to be as quick and straightforward as possible to increase app download and digital engagement. Aurasma is a free platform but the potential viewer needs to jump through extra hoops such as registering their email address when downloading the app and then searching for the ‘Aura’ before being able to access the digital content. This tends to put people off triggering the AR experience. There are other more expensive options in which one simply needs to download their app and scan the target; however, these can be expensive and geared towards projects such as advertising campaigns, which have a limited lifespan.

The drawbacks above are a couple of the reasons why David and I built Creativmuse, so that other creatives like myself could experiment with AR and augment an artwork indefinitely without having to spend a lot of money. With Creativmuse anyone can augment up to 20 target images, whether it be a painting or photograph, a flyer or business card, a menu or a poster, with a video overlay and added URL links to website and social media feeds for just £39/year whereas Layar costs £30/year to augment just one target. If an individual, business or organisation would like to explore the world of AR they can register for a free account at www.creativmuse.com and get started with one target image. Alternatively, if an organisation is in need of more sophisticated AR applications or a bespoke AR app, our company CreativTek can work with them to provide solutions.  

QR code painting

Creativetek website: https://creativmuse.com/​

Trevor's Linkedin: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/trevorjonesart

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First published on Company Connecting September 2016

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Augmented RealityQR codesArtPaintingSoftware DevelopmentDigital Art