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Augmented reality art trail launches in city centre

Four 'digital sculptures' can now be seen above buildings in Sheffield through a free smartphone app as part of Look Up, a new project coordinated by Marketing Sheffield.

Together by Universal Everything on top of the John Lewis building in Barkers Pool

Together by Universal Everything, former John Lewis building.

A free, first-of-its-kind augmented reality (AR) art trail launches in Sheffield today (7 February).

The Look Up app allows people to use their phones or other devices as a 'window' to view digital sculptures on the tops of four buildings in the city centre.

Produced by Marketing Sheffield in partnership with local digital specialists Megaverse, Human Studio and Universal Everything, the trail is launching with artworks located at Hallam University’s Owen Building, the Central Library, the old John Lewis building and the University’s Diamond building.

The project is also supported by Niantic Labs, whose successful Pokémon Go mobile game is perhaps the most popular example of AR technology.

Mark Mobbs of Marketing Sheffield said that "as far as we are aware, no city has used augmented reality in this way before."

“We want the trail to grow over time – it would be incredible if Sheffield became known around the globe as the only major city to have an AR art gallery as part and parcel of the city itself. Not only does this promote cultural values, but health and wellbeing too – the trail is designed to be accessed on foot and all locations will be outdoors, meaning our moniker of The Outdoor City, where nature meets culture, can truly come to life.”

Nick Bax, Creative Director at Human Studio, added that augmented reality "will change the way that we perceive time and space in our everyday lives."

"This emerging technology has the potential to be particularly powerful within our urban environment and we are delighted to contribute to Look Up, the AR art trail in Sheffield city centre. We have created lots of immersive artworks for screens and VR headsets and jumped at the opportunity to create augmented art for everyone to see. This is a new way of sharing and enjoying art."

The free app is available now for Apple and Android devices. The Look Up landing page includes more information, as well as recommendations for visitors to the city.

The project is supported by central government funding via Marketing Sheffield, which is part of Sheffield City Council's City Futures department.

by Sam Walby (he/him)
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