AR design project MID x Waag x Rathenau Instituut

A collaboration of Master Industrial Design (MID) students together with Waag Technology & Society and Rathenau Instituut on an Augmented Reality design project. Students had to visualise 'hidden data' by means of augmented reality and give this AR a sensory quality and/or meaning which should be read with one of the senses or a combination of them.

Below are two short presentations of two group projects that took form during one of the strangest semesters in the history of the Royal Academy of Art.

Augmented reality in confinement

text by Merel Kamp

You may have only heard of ‘augmented reality’ in relation to the fun mobile game Pokémon GO. But Pokémon, the most downloaded app worldwide in 2016, is more than fun, or perhaps, not all that funny. The virtual world of Pokémon clashed with the physical world, when large numbers of people trampled nature reserves and crowded public spaces to find rare Pokémons. Big companies such as McDonald's and Starbucks teamed up with Niantic, Pokémon's producer, to lure people into their shops thereby increasing sales.

So, you decide: Funny app or capitalist manipulation strategy? ‘Like all technology, AR has societal implications and raises many ethical questions’, says Dhoya Snijders, senior researcher at Rathenau Instituut, an independent research institute –largely financed by the Dutch government–with a focus on the impact of science, innovation and technology on society.

MID student’s augmented reality design project started in close cooperation with this institute and creative hub and thinktank Waag Technology & Society. Students were given the opportunity to work with Rathenau’s artist in residence Roos Groothuizen during a one-day workshop. And then there were hands-on workshops on electronics and programming by developer and co-tutor Lodewijk Loos of Waag Society. These would allow them to experiment with electronics and computers working towards a final, working prototype in Waag’s workshops.

‘The original assignment was to visualize ‘hidden data’ by means of augmented reality and to give this AR a sensory quality, meaning, one should be able to read the visualization with one of the senses or a combination of them’, says MID design tutor, and the project’s initiator Yassine Salihine. But alas, along came COVID. Some students had to go back home, changing working environments and time zones. And all of them struggled to create prototypes with the academy and workshops closed and a lack of hands-on experience after only three workshops by Loos on location. After an initial sinking of morale, things improved as everyone got used to their new circumstances. Students started working from home on subjects inspired by the home. ‘Soon enough most projects related to living in confinement’, says Salihine.

They started working from questions that were, in that particular moment in time and history, both topical and close to heart. What do the sounds of your dwelling tell you? And could the rhythm of those sounds be stored and then read like a clock? What if the window of your apartment, could give you an augmented experience of local weather conditions and its relation to global climate change?’

In the end, all three group-projects resulted in interesting outcomes that were presented in online presentations. ‘I was surprised to see how well-thought-through these projects were, despite the students not being able to go through any material iterative process’, says Loos, ‘and I think that cooperating at a distance, taught them many lessons, which will prove valuable further on in their careers.’

Participating students

Arno Eiselt, Juilin Chang, Malin Dittmann, Iris Hagel, Tin Erco Lai, Lucie Ponard, Job Oort, Nicolás Vischi, Louw Visscher.

Supervision and guidance by Master Industrial tutor Yassine Salihine, Dhoya Snijders (Rathenau Instituut), Roos Groothuizen (artist in residence Rathenau Instituut), Lodewijk Loos (Waag Society)