Because of its ability to place digital content into the real world, augmented reality lends itself well to artists and creatives.
Two new mobile apps, one from Google and another from an indie developer with ties to Magic Leap, invert the creative conceit by taking the real world and morphing it via augmented reality.
First up is Weird Cuts, the latest in a line of augmented reality apps emerging from the Experiments with Google project, such as Big Bang AR, Just a Line, and Notable Women.
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Developed by artists Zach Lieberman and Molmol Kuo in collaboration with Google Arts and Culture, the app enables users to cut out images from the real world and then paste them elsewhere in their physical environment to create 3D digital collages. With the cut-outs placed into space, users can then manipulate their size and move them around their environment through the touchscreen.
"Users can download the app and capture elements in the world and put them in space in completely new and unexpected ways," said Liberman.
Weird Cuts is currently available only for Android via the Play Store, but it requires Android Oreo 8.0 and the latest version of ARCore, and the app has only been tested for with Google Pixel 2, Pixel 3, Pixel XL, and Samsung S series devices with non-ARM GPUs. (The app crashes immediately on my Pixel 2 running Android Q beta, but this is life on the bleeding edge.)
The app's description does mention compatibility with ARKit-capable iPhones running iOS 11 or later, so it appears Weird Cuts may appear on the App Store soon.
And then there's Doodle Cam from Kevaid and developer Aidan Wolf. The app's key feature is similar, except instead of pulling images out of the real world, Doodle Cam can cut out drawings, logos, text, and the like out of their 3D surroundings. Users can then recolor the doodles and continue copying and pasting them into their personal space.
Wolf, an original member of Magic Leap's Leap Squad, previously led development for the mobile AR app Blue Sky Paint. His latest magic trick works on similar principals. While Blue Sky Paint uses a machine learning algorithm to recognize the sky and then applies graphic shaders to mask the horizon and occluding objects, Doodle Cam uses a compute shader to identify contrasting colors and then segments and clips out the darkest colors.
The app is available as a limited beta for iOS (and Wolf's DMs are open on Twitter for beta requests), with Android beta launching on May 17. Wolf told Next Reality that he is aiming to launch the app publicly by the end of May with a price tag of $1.99.
It wasn't long ago that artistic creations via mobile AR apps were limited mostly to drawing lines in space. Weird Cuts and Doodle Cam demonstrate that AR art can break boundaries of what we'd expect for merging digital creations with the physical world.
"We're really excited about augmented reality because it opens up a way for artists to tell stories visually," said Kuo.
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