Shared Spaces' AR Prototypes at the Ten Digit Technology Conference

We worked with Saskatchewan artist Ruth Cuthand, developing Augmented Reality content for two of her pieces that she presented at the Canadian Crafts Federation’s Ten Digit Technology conference, which took place in Saskatoon in March, 2020.

“Extirpate this Execrable Race” was the first piece we augmented. This installation is centered on the smallpox epidemic and the health impacts of colonization. The blankets Ruth created feature beaded smallpox viruses; we used a photograph of this beadwork to act as the trigger image. When scanned, the trigger linked the user to a short video of Ruth speaking about the event that informed this work. Ruth has a wonderful enthusiasm in how she speaks so it made sense to share her story through video. For her second piece, a beading of the Hepatitis C virus, we created a rotating 3D animation of a viral model to provide an example of integrating science with visual art. This animation was also triggered by a scanned image of her work.

For the conference, Ruth displayed her physical pieces and Shared Spaces brought the corresponding trigger images that we printed on cards for distribution. After Ruth spoke about her work, I provided a quick demonstration on how to use the app and conference attendees were able to follow along with the provided trigger images. We decided to use the cards as triggers rather than the actual pieces after we learned that the lighting of the trigger image must remain consistent to be detectable. This would require the image to be in the exact place where the work was to be shown, which we were unable to do in preparation for the conference. It also allowed everyone to try the trigger out at once on their own phone or device, rather than waiting to get close enough to Ruth’s works.

Attendees were quick to grasp the technology and the overall responses to both pieces were positive. From the surveys we conducted, almost everyone enjoyed the additional information provided and felt that it was a rewarding art experience. There were some questions and discussions about how artists and craftspeople could integrate this into their practice. Many attendees felt that this technology would be appropriate as an educational tool or could be incorporated into their businesses; others felt they would prefer to use this technology in galleries or their home. As we continue to progress on the development side of the application, the feedback we from experiences like this guide our process. 

Written by Lauren Warrington, Development Team Member