Artist uses old technology and Pepper’s Ghost to put viewer in charge of creating illusion

[From Wired]

Old school technology betrays the magic of illusion

By Alice Vincent
14 April 2011

An artist has taken augmented reality into a “media archeological” realm with the aid of a salvaged slide projector, retro 3D scenes and an 150-year old optical illusion.

Sebastian Schmieg, a Berlin art student, has recently created 81 Points of View, an interactive sculpture which puts the viewer in charge of creating an illusion and “reverses the process of hiding all the technology involved”.

The installation makes use of an 19th Century illusion known as Pepper’s Ghost, something that Schmieg was introduced to by a university tutor, although as he explained in an interview with the effect is fairly commonplace: “One gets to see it regularly when looking through a window when it’s dark outside.”

81 Points of View uses some mirrors and thin acrylic glass to create an augmented version of the viewer’s perspective. The participant is able to move the projector, using an attached handle, to display any of the 81 slides which make up a panoramic scene. A slide is then selected which reflects the position of the viewer and correlates this to a view within the scene. That slide is then projected onto the glass and mirrors attached to the sculpture to create an illusion using the same principles of reflected angles as Pepper’s Ghost. The slides show scenes from a short, cyclical animation of identifiable 3D shapes and graphics which appear to float before your eyes.

As Schmieg explains, “the basic idea is that when you rotate the projector, the tray carrying the slides rotates in the opposite direction. That way it always keeps its position relative to the ground.” As a result, the viewer is able to look at the augmented reality created by the glass and mirrors above the projector.

The slides in question comprise familiar scenes which showcase perspective at its best: “With the help of a friend I created this little 3D-scene with iconic objects like the utah teapot, primitive shapes or columns. These are objects that played an important role in the history of 3D computer graphics. Checkerboard patterns and columns can also be seen in a lot in paintings from the Renaissance, a time when perspective as we know it today was more or less being established in painting.”

You can see some of the scenes created by 81 Points of View and the equipment involved in our gallery, or check out the video to see the sculpture in action.

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