Research Project

Augmented Reality (AR) Exhibition in the MIT Infinite Corridor

Idea

Research, develop, and install a location based augmented reality (AR) exhibition: 1 to INFINITY portrait photography series in the MIT Infinite Corridor.

Floor plan

The exhibit will start on the ground floor in the Atrium of MIT’s building 7 located at 77 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts USA.  Starting with a 1 year old, AR portraits of people every age, holding age tokens with ascending numbers, will lead you approximately 860 feet down the Infinite Corridor. The portraits and numbers will lead you up a stairwell to the 2nd floor. The age numbers will continue to rise from 57 to over 100 years old, bringing you to the 2nd floor balcony in the Atrium where the exhibit started. From the balcony you look up and follow the age numbers ascending into the 100’s, spiraling up to an infinite point in the Atrium’s glowing white skylight… There you have it. Proof that the MIT Infinite Corridor is in fact infinite.

Triggers

How will the exhibit be triggered to start and again at intermediate points?

Is it possible to leave no physical trace of the AR exhibit anywhere on or in the buildings?

Can the MIT seal on the wall in the Atrium trigger this AR exhibit experience?

What is the smartest system of stealthy waypoints? 

Visual Display

Phones screens have a vertical aspect ratio that is approximately the same aspect ratio as the corridor. Is this exhibit a uniquely optimal match of display and space? Other visual display products are currently in development. Principal Investigator of the MIT Open Documentary Lab, Professor William Uricchio offered this general assessment of where AR technology is today, “As far as I’m concerned, visual display is the missing link, the thing standing between augmentation and success. If we can solve it with non obtrusive glasses, the sector will explode.” In the mean time, how do we optimize a vertical rectangle phone display in a vertical rectangle space for this exhibit?  

Previsualization Sketches

The positioning of the portraits and the opacity of the background circles will be fine tuned during the installation to optimize the viewing experience. A key design strategy is to adapt and leverage the capabilities of the AR software tools that we use.  

In these sketches the age tokens for 3, 28, 60 and above 112 are without a person for a portrait. Remember, the goal is infinity so there might be a lot numbers without a person.

Can people bring themselves to  walk through portraits that are suspended like AR bubbles nearish the floor in their path?  Or will they try to go around them?  

App AR and Web AR

The question of the moment: Is there a Web AR tool mature enough to meet the minimum technical requirements of this exhibit?

Our tests so far show that an AR App is a viable solution for a successful exhibit.  We are not yet ruling out using App AR technology. However, in our surveys, users and makers express that the big problem with an AR App is that nobody likes to interact with the App stores. On the other hand, Web AR would enable people to access this exhibit with a web address that simply opens the exhibit webpage in a phone’s standard web browser – this would be an extremely easier onboarding than with App AR.

We are testing a couple Web AR tools now. To the makers and users of  Web AR tools out there in the world, is this exhibit is a good use case to push what is possible? Anyone with possible solutions or suggestions, please make contact

This is an exhibit in a research technical institute so pushing technology to points of failure is revealing and celebrated. 

End

The exhibit ending will be on the 2nd floor Atrium balcony with the ages spiraling into the infinite. A large balcony wraps around 3 sides of the Atrium. The big space and aucustics are good for conversation and contemplation. 

Audio Design

The exhibit will work with visuals-only for those who do not have headphones or are unable to access audio for any reason. 

With headphones you will hear  the real time ambient noises of the corridor amplified. Also, as you arrive at each number and portrait, a second layer of audio will simply be a person saying that number. The person saying the number will not be the person in the portrait. Each voice saying a number will come from a person who chooses to use their phone to record themselves saying a number and then sharing that recording with the exhibit. 

When visitors are on the second floor balcony, the website interface for the exhibit will ask if they want to record themselves saying their favorite number, age, or any other numbers. People who are unable to make it to MIT can share their voice saying a number by accessing the exhibit website. These recordings will go into digital buckets set up for each number. The recorded numbers will be played back to visitors with an algorithm that makes each individual visit to the exhibit a unique audio experience.  Anyone anywhere with access to the internet can easily visit the exhibit website and share their voice saying a number in the corridor at MIT. 

 

Good Actors

The exhibit must enhance and not disrupt daily life in the Infinite Corridor at MIT. 

  • When daily classes change over, the traffic on the first floor is heaviest.
  • The flow of people in the Infinite Corridor varies greatly. 
  • How does the exhibit integrate with these real-life occurrences?
  • The exhibit can simply be programmed to turn off and on to accommodate the daily class schedule?
  • Traffic trends are measurable and predictable. Can access to the exhibit be smartly limited based in this data? 
  • How can the visual and audio design influence the pace that exhibit visitors walk through the exhibit?
  • Ideas will be modeled and tested to learn more about AR function in public space.

Schedule

  • September 30, 2021: Complete an alpha prototype of the visuals.
  • January 31, 2022: Complete both the final visuals and audio.

This research and exhibition project is being developed in the MIT Open Documentary Lab. The augmented reality concept for this exhibit was born out of weekly meetings of the lab’s AR + Public Space working group.

Thank You

Claire Traweek, Engineer

Halsey Burgund, Creative Technologist and founder of Roundware

Nicolas Robbe, CEO at Hoverlay

Alon Grinshpoon, CEO at EchoAR

Nim Shapira, MIT Research Fellow

and more to come