AR/T HOUSE is a culmination of an endless curiosity that led to my deep appreciation for all the backstories in the world around us. Real-time stories about places, people, objects, artwork, architecture, brands, products… all the things in the physical world require a new canvas for storytelling. That is the promise of augmented reality (AR): to unlock otherwise invisible digital layers in our surroundings, to give it more meaning, context, and personal connection.
In its best form, AR empowers us to see the art in everything.
The Curation of Curiosity
I grew up in a family that placed a significant emphasis on the appreciation of arts and culture. Almost every family vacation included an exploration of the creative community local to each destination. My childhood cultivated a curiosity in creativity.
This enduring sense of wonder extended to almost everything during my time studying sociology at UCLA and law at Harvard. I quickly learned that to deeply understand what makes contemporary societies tick, at both the macro and micro levels, we need to peel back the layers from their surface, peering into the often complex and dynamic influences. In other words, it requires a high level of critical curiosity.
Once pulled back, these layers reveal a myriad of experiences. They do share one thing in common: unearthed stories. Stories about the people, places, ideas, traditions that comprise them.
Curiosity led me to crave these new stories, deep-seated in the world around us. This also led to a career focusing on technologies that amplified stories online.
Beneath the Brushstrokes
Now well into a career in tech, my weekends were spent exploring another passion of mine, street art. Bike rides throughout Downtown LA with my friend and co-founder, Mikey Meshchures led to discovering many new murals in progress by prominent street artists. While the larger-than-life visuals pulled us in, the personal biographies of the artists and their artworks kept our attention.
But that wasn’t enough. We wanted the world to also know these deep stories beneath the brushstrokes of the mesmerizing murals. To ascribe the street art with more meaning and context. To amplify the experiences and memories of many future passersby.
While exploring the physically vast medium of public art, I was also diving deep into the digitally expansive canvas that is augmented reality. My intersecting interests of the physical and digital collided, and in so doing, activated a lightbulb moment: augmented reality (AR) could be a significant future canvas for storytelling. Imagine being able to point your phone at a mural and bring it to life, extending its story while also revealing the origin backstory about the work and the artist. Imagine doing the same with artworks in galleries, the architecture around cities, the prints, and paintings in your home.
But to realize these significant opportunities, we first need to overcome an equally significant obstacle — the friction that technology often presents, specifically app downloads, to experience such content. Enter AR/T HOUSE.
We built AR/T HOUSE to solve a paradox common to many tech sectors, specific to the world of augmented reality: develop a technology that enables people to unlock otherwise invisible layers of stories about the world around them, while remaining invisible itself. Build a technology that removes itself from the experience. Empower people to get lost in the stories, not in the technologies.
AR/T HOUSE was born to empower creatives, brands, and institutions to tell immersive stories underlying their creations, products and places with invisible and intuitive AR technology. Unlock the invisible to give the visible world more meaning, context, and connection.
The Making of AR/T HOUSE
The name of our company has multiple points of significance, including the importance of art in our origin story. Serendipitously, the same year we founded our company, in 2017, researchers published a study about the relatively short viewing time (28.6 seconds) per work of art by the contemporary museum-goer. Why? Because that’s the amount of time it takes to read the label and to take a photo of the art. Ironically, many museum visitors are producing photographic secondary “memories” of their visits without forming primary memories with the art itself.
This specific example underscores a larger phenomenon. While many technologies have at once intentionally connected us like never before, they have also unintentionally disconnected us from deep experiences with the world around us. People are currently craving deeper connections with the people, places, institutions, and brands that they interact with every day. I truly believe that this is an equal and opposite reaction to the alienation and disconnection that’s been building up within themselves and within society.
And therein lies the massive obstacles turned opportunities that companies like AR/T HOUSE are set out to solve. What if technology could reconnect, rather than disconnect us with the world around us? What if it could easily unlock all the invisible stories beneath the surface to give the world around us more meaning, context, connection? What if it could bring life to life?
Let’s take the museum experience study as an example. 28.6 seconds. That’s just an interaction with the camera and the artwork.
Now let’s consider the interaction with an augmented camera that reveals a biographical backstory of the artwork, the artist, and the process of production. An interaction that immerses and encourages viewers to actively lean in rather than passively walk away; even more so than they would without any technology. That becomes a lasting, memorable viewer interaction. Now imagine this applied to all the art, architecture, city blocks, stores, products, landmarks around us. They remain as is, with these digital backstories invisible. At any point, we can unlock them, bringing their stories to life.
Miami AR/T Week
Miami Art Week 2023 was a full circle moment for AR/T HOUSE. Initially inspired to amplify the stories of public art on bike rides throughout the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District, we were given the opportunity to become the AR partner of Miami’s Wynwood Walls, a global center for public art by some of the most prominent muralists in the world.
We kicked off our partnership by augmenting four murals by Shepard Fairey, Buff Monster, Sandra Chevrier, and Millo. Each mural now has multiple digital layers precisely mapped to their respective walls. By simply scanning a QR code placard, visitors can unlock multiple layers per artwork, including motion art that brings the paint to life and timelapses that showcase the mural production process.
Especially significant, the prominent and permanent Shepard Fairey mural at the entrance now amplifies the artist’s homage to Tony Goldman. The late real estate developer and city place-maker founded Goldman Global Properties, which owns and operates Wynwood Walls. His vision to beautify the then tattered area with murals culminated in the Wynwood Arts District and Wynwood Walls as the cultural center.
In Shepard Fairey’s now augmented mural, Goldman’s retro glasses float off the wall and in front of the viewer. Historical footage of Wynwood’s transformation, with Goldman’s voiceover, plays inside the lenses. Our computer vision technology effectively empowers the viewer to see Goldman’s vision, figuratively and literally.
You can experience this AR/T work remotely by scanning the AR code below, then following the prompts to point your viewfinder at the mural photograph.
The Art in Everything
The Shepard Fairey augmented mural is a microcosm of AR/T HOUSE’s work across many industries and activations. The faces depicted in his art are not random or disconnected, but rather intentionally connected to a larger theme about positively impacting the world. It’s a reflection of Tony Goldman’s vision to see the beauty down every sidewalk, on every wall. It’s an amplification of the story within the history of Wynwood, Miami. It’s an indication of the potential for beauty underlying our surroundings.
This is a shared vision we have at AR/T HOUSE. The purpose of our technology is to empower our brand and creative partners, along with their audiences, to give the visible world more context and connection by unlocking digital, otherwise invisible layers of meaning; to see the art in everything.
Justin Fredericks Bio:
Justin Fredericks is the Co-Founder and CEO of AR/T HOUSE, an industry-leading augmented reality publishing platform that frictionlessly powers branded AR experiences, all without an app. Clients include some of the world’s leading companies, such as Paramount Pictures, Compass Real Estate and WME. Justin combines learnings from 10 years in tech and 7 years in visual marketing to forecast a flourishing future for the AR industry. Also, a nerdy academic, he received a B.A. in Sociology from UCLA and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.