Digital Mushrooms or Augmented Reality

I wanted to write about this a lot earlier, but well, you know how it is sometimes.

This autumn I had my first two encounters with Augmented Reality (short AR).

Thanks to Djure Meinen and Frank Tentler I was allowed to join the evening event of the stART conference in Duisburg in September where the Zaboura Eichstaedt Experience (short ZEE) gave a performance.

ZEE’s art performance is based on the iphone technology. They use the application Ocarina for getting some nice instrumental background to play with and then add instruments like guitars to it in order to enhance the musical effect. The added instruments can be very different, as their photo and video section shows.

This already fascinating sound mix gets taken to another level when Zaboura adds her soft yet powerful voice reading the philosophical texts of Georg Simmel . At the start of the performance, both music and the text read do not make really sense to your little grey cells, but then after a short while of resistance they decide to accept this uncontrollable flow of sounds and impressions that the ears pass on to them – and then one just falls into it, into a certain kind of trance-like experience almost. And then at some point the sounds stop. Performance over. And what then? One does not really know what to say. Non-sense. Strange. And that shall be art? These kind of comments one hears. But also things like wow, brilliant, amazing experience.

I found that the ZEE-performance took me totally out of my normal thoughts. Listening and allowing myself to fall into this special mix of sound simply freed my head. It made me listen, without really understanding or being able to describe the experience if someone would have asked me. It took my thoughts kind of to a bigger, wider space. I felt inspired, creativity seemed to be filling the air around, possibilities. All that in the wider sense of a feeling, nothing concrete.

Even though this has been over a month now, the inspiration I took with me. And I can still clearly recall the special atmosphere.

Then, a couple of weeks ago I went to the Geek Girl Meetup in Stockholm. There I met Andie Nordgren who is the product manager and developer at RjDj in London. Andie demonstrated to us one of the iphone applications that RjDj developed. The way it works is that one listens to music via ones head phones and then via the application sounds from ones surroundings get added. Think of listening to your hottest House or Trance compilation or even your favourite lounge music compilation, whatever you prefer, and then walking down Oxford Street with all the people rushing past you. All these sounds get added on top of your music and thus everything blends to a unique mix that only you listen to via your headphones.

Andie demonstrated the application to us in an open room at the GGM, and she gave some of us her headphones on our night out together. Both times it was a really impressive experience. But she also advised us to be careful with this since it “fucks with your brain” as she put it. Or as John Mahoney from Gizmodo states on the RjDj website “Hey, it’s mushrooms without the mushrooms!” .

For me this is definitely a reason consider even more seriously to finally get an iphone.

Anyway, Andie’s demonstration helped me understand much better what I already experienced with ZEE, even though these two are of course two different pairs of shoes.

I look forward to see what else there will be available within the next let’s say six months.

Digital mushrooms, wow 🙂

Another thought, does this mean that applications like the RjDj ones will considerably fuck up the market for Ecstasy and the like? Will drug dealers get digital and legal? So much cheaper and fancier and less dangerous – OK, the latter has probably to be proven first.


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