Augmented reality is here and it’s only getting more popular.
According to a recent Augmented/Virtual Reality Report, AR will be the “primary driver of a $108 billion VR/AR market by 2021.” From AR art applications like Nancy Baker Cahill’s 4thWall app and MoMAR’s Hello, we’re from the internet exhibition, to gaming and entertainment applications like Pokémon Go and Snapchat’s lenses, augmented reality apps give artists and businesses carte blanche to remix reality and create innovative new works.
AR Art Apps for the Masses
MoMAR, “an unauthorized gallery concept aimed at democratizing physical exhibition spaces, museums, and the curation of art within them,” as is espoused on their website, is in the business of democratizing art itself. Last Spring, when MoMAR launched an AR art gallery within the MoMA’s Jackson Pollack room, attendees who viewed Pollack’s work through MoMAR’s app installed on their phones were treated to an immersive, overlaid digital experience. The shaking up of the world around us has limitless potential.
On a practical level, art and home design AR art applications like Houzz, IKEA, Orangenius and Saatchi allow consumers to view how a product — whether a lamp, couch or $1M piece of artwork — will look in their homes before buying. “80 percent of hesitant art buyers report they want to see art and imagine it in their space before they make a purchase. Saatchi Art’s new leading-edge augmented reality view solves this key concern for buyers,” said Jeanne Anderson, General Manager of Saatchi Art. “This new tool is just one of the ways we are working to transform how people shop, view and purchase art online.”
Revolutionizing the Job Market for AR Creatives
David Ripert, founder of new AR startup Poplar agrees, but he cautions that entry into AR isn’t the most convenient. That’s what he’s hoping to change with Poplar. “At the moment, a lot of companies that want to create AR experiences rely on big agencies and studios, and it costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars for certain experiences,” he says. “The process takes a really long time, because it requires multiple skills, and studios need to have 3D designers and developers in house, so it’s very expensive for brands.”
After heading up YouTube’s Spaces EMEA, Ripert took a leap of faith. Having worked on AR/VR projects at Google and seeing AR’s market potential, he set out to make AR content creation easier for creatives and brands alike by creating a marketplace. “Our idea was to work with AR content creators who are 3D designers, AR/VR developers, game developers and animators with flexible schedules and want to respond to briefs from brands. Using the gig economy, creators have access to the platform and can access briefs, respond to them and send in concepts. If the concepts are selected by the brand, they’ll be producing the AR work.” Essentially, the marketplace supplements freelance work for AR creatives.
And while freelance projects may not sound like the most creatively inspiring work, Ripert believes augmented reality can be a tipping point for artistic expression. While at Google, he teamed up with London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre and The Guardian to help produce Celestial Motion — a groundbreaking VR experience that explores the relationship between humans and the sun through immersive dance. Celestial Motion can be viewed by downloading the Guardian VR app on Google’s daydream platform.
Continuing his AR/VR exploration, Ripert worked on a mixed reality production with the Gorillaz. The band wanted to host a live interview for fans on YouTube, but as their virtual characters instead of themselves. To do this, Ripert and his YouTube team put the band members in a private room wearing motion capture suits. This happened while a famous radio DJ in a studio environment next door led an interview with the virtual characters brought over from the motion capture, all while live streaming to YouTube. The Google experiences with VR/AR left Ripert hopeful for Poplar and the new wave of digital, creative expression.
“These projects inspire me to believe that there’s much more [possible} than video in terms of feeling and being immersed in media and context. You could watch a video and find it emotional and connect to the story, but you can’t dive into it. It’s everyone’s childhood dream to actually be living what you’re watching. So from an entertainment point of view, it’s fascinating and that’s why I got into it,” Ripert explains.
Whether you’re a 3D designer or app developer, there’s no better time to expand your experience into augmented reality and grow your network through marketplaces like Poplar. While the Poplar platform, which is only a few weeks old, stands to connect brands and AR creatives, it doesn’t yet feature production tools or collaboration, but that’s something Ripert feels strongly about. “In the future, we’ll get to develop more tooling and automation,” Ripert says. Mitigating the workflow and schedule between multiple technical creatives, a brand and its creative agency is another high priority for the Poplar team.
“Ultimately, we want to be a self-service automated platform where people can go and use tools to create their own AR experience simply,” says Ripert. He likens Poplar to YouTube in that his goal for Poplar is, “Democratized access to augmented reality creation… just like YouTube democratized content creation.”
If Ripert’s onto anything, it’s that we’re only at the beginning for creative exploration in augmented reality. And major companies like L’Oreal, The Guardian and record labels, who are already in talks with the marketplace, agree. With the advent of Poplar, the barrier to artists looking to get into AR are next to none. The platform is free, non-exclusive, and once the work is greenlit, AR creatives not only get paid for their work, they’re compensated for the idea — something atypical in business and worthy of celebration.