'Prosthetic Reality': The art of augmented reality

Through the lens of augmented reality, a new project hopes to change how we interact with the world.

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The smartphone in your pocket is a powerful little device, and some of its potential is only just starting to unfold.

The idea of augmented reality, for instance, has been around for a few years, but it's still very much in its infancy. Part of this is due to the technology, but the barriers are dropping, perhaps due in part to Pokemon Go; after all, familiarity with new technology breeds adoption.

Artist and comic creator Sutu, aka Stu Campbell, explored the use of AR as a storytelling tool in his 2014 comic "Modern Polaxis."

Now he's taking the technology he and his business partner Lukasz Karluk developed even further, exploring its use as a tool for artistic expression.

His latest project is called "Prosthetic Reality," an art book that features the work of 45 artists from around the world. Each artwork, when viewed through the free EyeJack app for iOS and Android, comes to vivid life, with a colourful animation and soundscape that reveals a deeper meaning.

"The title for the book came from the idea of giving our reality an appendage in the digital form, in this case, transforming a physical printed artwork with a new layer of animated digital art that transforms the meaning and adds something more," Campbell explained in an email.

"I encouraged the artists to explore the possibilities of AR art in their own style. The result is a diverse collection of AR art ranging from hand drawn illustrations to technical 3D animations to powerful political narrative, all of which beautifully showcases the potential of the medium."

The AR technology has improved since the launch of "Modern Polaxis." The new EyeJack app ("Modern Polaxis" has its own standalone app and remains iOS only) supports more sophisticated animations, and is simpler to use -- meaning artists unfamiliar with it can pick it up more easily.

This is, Campbell hopes, the beginning of a new distribution platform, hoping that EyeJack can become the leading distributor of augmented reality art.

"At the moment it's a strange experience to wave your phone over a book to see animated content," Campbell said.

"In the future we will have wearables (AR glasses) and that experience of consuming the AR content will be seamless. When the new wearable technology drops we want to be ready and compatible with plenty of AR products to boot and a solid network of artists to create new experiences."

A video posted by EyeJack (@eyejackapp) on

Google Glass may have been a failure, but Microsoft's HoloLens is showing great promise. Other companies, such as Vuzix and (according to rumour) Apple are also developing augmented reality glasses.

The EyeJack technology also works with all sizes, provided it can fit within the phone's screen. This gives it potential for street art (which is how "Modern Polaxis" got its start).

It can also be used for art exhibitions, as is currently demonstrated in Melbourne, Australia. From today until February 12, "Prosthetic Reality" is installed at the No Vacancy gallery in Federation Square. An upcoming exhibition will take place in Sydney, Australia in March, and later in the year "Prosthetic Reality" exhibition may travel to Europe.

Campbell, meanwhile, continues to dream big.

"I would love to cover an entire city with AR art," he said, "and introduce gamefication in to the AR works to really motivate the public to explore and interact with the art."

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