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Breadboard launches augmented reality art exhibit throughout city

Public art and augmented reality have collided in Philadelphia.

On Friday, tech arts program Breadboard — an initiative hosted by theUniversity City Science Center — launched the local version of the Virtual Public Art Project, a national augmented reality art program.

Using a free mobile application at eight locations in the city users can load up three-dimensional images that correlate geographically with popular Philadelphia landmarks like the Philadelphia Art Museum and Logan Square.

For Breadboard organizer Dan Schimmel, it’s a counterweight to the commercial AR experiences that are starting to become more prevalent in the mobile sphere.

“[Augmented Reality] is certainly going to crash through our lives through commerce and advertising. The fact that there’s an organization that exists now and is using this technology and exploring creative and artistic aspects, we thought was a really good project to bring to Philadelphia.”

Near the Art Museum, Nancy Agati’s “Lumen” floats 5 circular, abstract-patterned discs over the Schuylkill. The discs were created by photographing during different parts of the day a wooden hoop with willow branches. More detail on her process is here.

Artists responded to a call from Breadboard and were trained through workshops about basic 3D modelling tools, with help from VPAP at Next Fab Studio. “The other component of the project was to introduce artists to a new media and actually teach them how to use it,” Schimmel says.

The art, which is located throughout West Philadelphia, Center City and Old City, is supported by augmented reality app platform Layar on the iPhone and Android-powered devices. The software additionally enables users to access other reality “layers” provided by other companies in the Philadelphia region.

There’s also a gallery element, an “infomercial,” Schimmel says, at the Esther Klein Gallery in University City. Folks can get background on augmented reality and get a feel for some of the artists works around the city available in virtual form. The crossover represents well the recent development of Breadboard, which is operationally diversifying from EKG as it moves forward on its mission.

“Breadboard emerged out of 30 plus years of EKG programming, but to really embrace some of the operating model we had developed, embrace our partnership with Next Fab Studio and do a lot more with technology,” Schimmel says, “we’ll keep the EKG as a display space for projects and exhibits.”

The virtual exhibit will be available at least until late November.

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Kristen Fitch

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