Filmpro Artistic Director Caglar Kimyoncu has been working with AR developer Albert Barbu on a new, exciting approach to augmented reality that has not been explored yet: captions, BSL and audio description synched with the artwork (moving and still images).  

Intrigued, we dug down into some of the detail of this fascinating project with Caglar ahead of the opening of his exhibition in East London this month (Jan 2020). You can find exhibition details at the bottom of the article.

Here's where we got to ... 

[Shape] There’s something quite fascinating about you work, in how you’ve modified a particular creative or informational tool to focus on responsiveness, particularly to the user's own subtle movement and direction. What are your thoughts specifically on this level of connectivity and its benefits for inclusivity?

[Caglar] Augmented reality (AR) is still a fairly new tool when used with moving image in gallery environments. Our AR app allows audience members to access additional content on their devices which syncs with the primary content, which is projected, or on monitors, in the gallery space. The app offers access provision such as captions, audio description and BSL interpretation but also allows the artist to offer additional narrative content such as extra audio or video layers. It is therefore both an access and creative tool and explores the boundary between the two. 

in a gallery, a woman views a printed image through her phone, with her phone showing an augmented reality image of a silhouette on its screen

It also allows people to be in the same space and have a similar experience whilst using a personalised and bespoke delivery system. The app gives the control to the audience using the ubiquitous smart phone. At the moment the tech is only working offline but the intention is to further downstream produce a version that works online. We are always on the lookout for project opportunities to further explore and develop this tech.

Most people, but not all, have phones, and we see AR as an additional tool rather than a replacement, or one fits all access solution

We often hear the gallery space discussed as something malleable, something that not only facilitates the art but radically transforms it, for better or worse. How did this effect your focus on making this space more accessible?

 The Arts Pavilion is large, modernist, ambitious and exciting. The app is designed to work in any space, and so is not site specific, but the intention is to personalise the experience and introduce a human scale. Ultimately how much AR content the audience member receives is up to them but we want to work towards an experience which is streamlined and seamless. The aim is to create events which are as accessible as possible.

The app seems to have the potential to add entirely new levels of functionality and depth to the experience of art. As you quite rightly stated on your site, this is ‘transmedia’. AR in many ways blends different forms of information into something more complete. Do you feel this spills over into the experience of art proper, allowing the viewer to identify with a piece more readily perhaps?

Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) offer new ground with lots of potential. They contribute to a developing vocabulary but that doesn’t make sense if the new tech is just an add on or created for its own sake. Most of the development is being done by the big players such as game developers and the National Theatre using AR glasses to deliver captions. Some of the usage is very good, other content is not so great.

From our experience it is important to keep focused on the content rather than getting distracted by the tech. There is the potential for AR to be excluding but it can also be immersive and powerful. In one way we prefer AR as it doesn’t create the same disconnection that VR can do.

Narratives have many forms in your exhibition, some static, some more fluid. How does AR in your work facilitate or emphasise this?

In addition to providing access solutions the AR app offers narrative tools. For example, an artist could offer content on demand such as additional angles, parallel plot lines or contextual and research materials. As an artist who is always looking for new ways to develop and deliver stories this is really powerful and exciting.

image of a screenshot giving instructions how to use an augmented reality app

As an access tool, how do you foresee AR developing or transforming how we view accessibility in general?

Most people, but not all, have phones and we see AR as an additional tool rather than a replacement, or one fits all access solution. The intention is for the audience member to have a seamless experience in the space and not to have to jump over hurdles to access content. The AR app is informed by our own, friends’ and colleagues’ experiences, we all want to be in the same space, at the same time, enjoying the same content.

Thanks, and good luck with the show!

This article includes some terms which readers may want clarified or to know more about. At the exhibition, the FilmPro team will be explaining how the process and technology works using live examples, so do come along! Or you could contact them via: [email protected]  

Banner image: two monitor screens show images in a dark room; two men in the right hand screen appear to be watching a doorway which appears in the left hand screen

All images c. Caglar Kimyoncu /Filmpro

Exhibition information:   
15 Jan - 19 Jan 2020
11.15am to 5:30pm

Late night opening on 16th January to 8:30pm
The Art Pavilion, Mile End Park, Clinton Road, E3 4QY   - free entry to all !

Google Map

For travel information please see:
The gallery is wheelchair accessible. The App provides content as captions, BSL and audio description. The filmpro team will be on hand to assist with using the app.
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