[NetBehaviour] Science Fiction Writer Becomes Augmented Reality Developer

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Fri Aug 19 12:11:48 CEST 2011

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Science Fiction Writer Becomes Augmented Reality Developer

Art Center College of Design, Pasadena CA, August 18, 2011

Art Center "Visionary in Residence" Bruce Sterling has created his own
augmented reality.

"Sometimes it's easiest to teach by doing," said the novelist and
design critic, speaking from Art Center's "Reality Augmented" Lab in
Pasadena. "I used to write science fiction about Augmented Reality
back when it was mostly imaginary. Now that it's become a real
industry, I had to conjure some up for myself."

Sterling's new application runs on the "Layar" platform, available on
iPhones, Androids and Symbian mobiles. Amsterdam-based Layar was the
corporate sponsor for the special project this summer at Art Center
College of Design. This was the first course in America to concentrate
on the design of AR.

Twenty Art Center students from various design majors have created AR
apps and also prototyped ideas for new, futuristic Layar services.

The AR class was co-taught by creative director Guillaume Wolf and
produced by Nikolaus Hafermaas, Art Center's Dean of Special Programs.

Sterling's new Layar "layer" is titled "Dead Drops," and is an
international collaboration with Layar coder Menno Bieringa, German
media artist Aram Bartholl and Layar artist-in-residence Sander

"I wrote a contribution for a new book about Aram's artwork," says
Sterling, "and I realized his 'Dead Drops' network meshes perfectly
with the Augmented Reality ideal. It's all about hidden data revealed
in real-world, three-dimensional spaces. So, suddenly, I had a class
project. Now I'm a registered Layar developer."

Bartholl "Dead Drops" are thumb-sized flash drives publicly hidden in
cities around the world. Bartholl's urban intervention features in the
current "Talk to Me" show at the New York Museum of Modern Art.

With Sterling's "Dead Drops Layer," users can scan the horizon for
handy Dead Drops that might be lurking nearby. A few taps and clicks
create a map that will lead to the site. Network users can then plug
their laptops directly into the "Dead Drops," which are commonly
embedded in brick walls and almost invisible.

Programmer Sander Veenhof, who visited and lectured at the AR class
in Pasadena, is Layar's artist-in-residence. Veenhof's own augmented
reality works include the "Infiltr.AR" invasion of the White House and
the "Battling Pavilions" exhibit at the Venice Biennale.

"Now that the app is launched, Menno, Sander and I have some
provocative ideas about new features," says Sterling. "Aram's network
is growing steadily. I'm writing a new work of augmented fiction
specifically created for Dead Drops."

Sterling doubts that he will be the last science fiction writer to
embrace "Augmented Reality."

"Layar's strategy is to transform Augmented Reality into a mass
medium," says Sterling. "That means a torrent of change in hardware
and software, plus new initiatives like the 'Layar Vision Creation
Challenge.' AR is happening today in places with core media
competence. The Los Angeles basin is definitely one of those places.
I'm pleased about this 'special program' -- I feel that it's opened
new prospects for everyone involved. I couldn't have done it anywhere
else but at Art Center College of Design."



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