Statement on Stupid Fun AR

Augmented reality games and toys on the iPhone or Android phones are appealing for the first 20 seconds or so, but after the brief honeymoon period they quickly become boring or frustrating. Why is that? It’s the gimmick of playing with a new technology that’s fueling your sense of wonder. Once you settle in and play in an intentional way, you’re forced to grapple with just how awkward AR can be. Virtual objects are sliding around or disappearing altogether when fiducial tracking is lost. Even when everything is working properly, the disorientation of looking at streaming video with overlaid imagery can prevent you from getting into the flow.

Instead of trying to make AR smarter and the technology more robust, why not expand the initial sense of wonder by keeping the AR simple and stupid? Introducing Stupid Fun AR! It’s a juicy toy that's fun and intuitive for an AR newbie because it makes no demands on the player. Although there aren’t any explicit gameplay goals, you’re rewarded for poking and pinching, twisting and torturing the star character: an anthropomorphic house in the 1930’s animation style. Even without any input, the house looks at you and performs for you. Any disorientation is trumped by the character’s obscene surreal energy. When you do touch the house or move the phone around, certain musical sounds play that are mapped to exaggerated character animations. Musical time loops every four seconds, similar to the Nintendo DS art game, Electroplankton. For example, if you poke the house, it squashes down accompanied with a low-pitched bass note accented with breaking wood. That bass note will then reoccur every four seconds. Through repetition and predictability, you can clearly see your creative agency build up and effect the little AR world.

Installation Info: Gallery-goers will be able to download Stupid Fun AR as a free app on their iPhone or Android phones and play it during the exhibition. I’ll provide wooden fiducial markers to install on the gallery wall and on a plinth. I’ll provide 1,000 paper fiducial markers so gallery-goers can play Stupid Fun at home.