We have met with Artefact, an up-and-coming mixed reality company from Vienna to talk about this new medium, their work and approach to projects, and the recent collaboration with Forward Festival.

Forward: What is a “mixed reality company” and what is your background?

Artefact: We are all architects and have been working with mixed reality for a couple of years now. We are fascinated by the potential this medium has to engage with people, beyond the triviality of let’s say “Pokémon Go”. We are interested in meaningful connections that evoke emotions and connecting people through the use of our apps. We like to surprise with new experiences. It’s not very different from architecture, in fact.

So at the end of the day, we focus on the design and development of mixed reality solutions. We like to tell stories with the help of augmented reality by connecting digital bits and the physical world. We create custom mixed reality apps for our customers to communicate their brand, their message or their values or to create a new marketing tool in a variety of contexts from commercial enterprises to cultural institutions.

Forward: Do you think mixed reality makes it possible for you to approach architecture in a way it wouldn’t be possible in real life?

For sure. In many ways. You can overcome gravity but this is not the most important point, even if it is fun sometimes. Our approach is still very much about space and form and about how we would like to communicate a narrative, a story, to the viewer. In architecture, this happens maybe trough a sequence of spaces. In AR, storytelling is more related to film. I think there are very few conceptual differences between architecture and mixed reality. Both are exciting mediums to work in, and we are trained as architects so our approach will be always a spatial one. The results though might be very different.

Forward: What is the Forward app?

Artefact: The Forward app is an augmented reality extension to the Forward Festival. Customized content can be revealed at various moments and locations at the festival and also taken home. The app stands in connection to the theme of “DIGITAL EYES” ; we were thinking of the smartphone as a portal or an eye into a new reality.

Forward: What can visitors expect, coming to Forward Festival and using the Forward app?

Artefact: We were interested in creating a communication portal. The festival takes place in four major cities at different times throughout the year. We thought it would be great if you could use mixed reality to connect communities and people visiting these festivals in different cities. This connection should be fun and engaging. It should involve some creativity from the user’s side and serve as an alternative to social media platforms. So we designed a simple drawing app, which allows you to draft a 3D message in space, like a spatial tag or a doodle, your logo, add a # message and send this content to the Forward community at all festivals as part of a collective artwork.

Forward: Where can visitors see the collective artwork?

Artefact: The main collective artwork, a large dynamic sculpture composed of bits and pieces of participant’s drawings will be augmented into the main performance space at the venues where you can admire it during the break between the speakers’ talks. But you can also look at individual content, maybe even find your own with provided stickers in the goodie bags or a large poster somewhere in the foyer of the venue.

Forward: AR is quite a trend at the moment. How can we ensure for it to become more than a trend? How can it be used in a meaningful way?

Artefact: Like with every innovation it’s not the product or the technology but the demand that will dictate the path. It’s a challenge to convince somebody today to invest or engage with AR as a platform, as it still sometimes lacks imagination on the client’s or the user’s side for what it can be used for or how it could supplement existing, let’s say, means of communication. The entertainment industry is for sure a major domain today where AR is really well received in a fun way, but we think that in future AR might play an important role in everyday rituals,  especially in connection to our cities and the built environment.

It’s a difficult speculation, but my bet is that in 15 years we will not have physical billboards or computer screens and a lot more will happen in 3D, maybe with some novel form of AR. We will not look at AR as a trend but as an everyday technology we use, like our smartphones today.


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