By Olivia Richman
Ever since Facebook announced Spark AR at the 2017 F8 Developer’s Conference, the social media giant has been looking for ways to implement its mobile augmented reality camera platform in the lives of everyday users.
Facebook has partnered with the Tate museum in London to launch “The Virtual Wing: Powered By Spark AR,” a project that reveals new stories behind the works of art, delivering information that requires a smartphone to be viewed.
To implement this feature during a visit to the Tate, visitors can use the Instagram app’s camera (iOS and Android) to scan the museum’s select works and activate the various Spark AR-powered features. According to Facebook’s announcement, users will be greeted by a welcome message, as well as a map of the exhibit.
In one example, when the work “Fishing upon the Blythe-Sand, Tide Setting In,” by Joseph Mallord William Turner, is viewed through the Instagram camera, the art appears to tear apart. This effect dovetails with the artist’s real world story. It was rumored that Turner had previously torn the canvas into five pieces so his seven cats could pass through it like they would a cat flap (this is why viewers will also see a tabby jump through the torn canvas).
Also, when viewed through the Spark AR-powered tour, John Simpson’s “Head of a Man” shows Ira Frederick Aldrige’s gaze change from dramatic to downcast, depending on how users move the Instagram camera.
In another instance, “The Cholmondeley Ladies,” painted by an unknown artist, uses Spark AR to tell a tale through a kaleidoscope view.
“Unlike traditional cameras, today’s smartphones have both immense computing power and an always-on connection to the internet — a combination that turns out to be profound,” said Spark AR head Matthew Roberts on the company’s website. “More than just capture, this is a camera that can see.”
Aside from Facebook’s use of AR to make traditional artwork more interactive, the Spark AR tool may also eventually become an important tool for a wide range of artists, allowing them to more easily connect with their audiences thanks to such immersive experiences.