Despite the name New York Comic Con, this event always attracts a wide array of vendors and people with their own creative things to show off. One of my most unexpected appointments this year was with Mark AR, touting the label of the first app to use Google’s new Cloud Anchor technology and the world’s first social AR platform. Intrigued, I knew I had to find out more.
The easiest way that I can explain Mark AR is virtual graffiti. This is where the Cloud Anchor technology comes into play: Google can remember what and where you’ve drawn something. So, for example, if I “paint” a turtle in the window of an abandoned building and save it to the cloud, the next person with the app to come along will be notified that there is something in the area. Then, by holding up your phone and scanning the area, you’ll be able to see my turtle painting pop up in the same place where I left it.
After going through a demonstration of how to find pictures, I was then treated to a personalized tour around the block of Javits Center so I could see the app in action. The installation featured work by six different artists—including Lola Glass and Afua Richardson—and showed the functionality of the app.
While Mark AR is virtual graffiti, it does take advantage of the virtual medium. For example, one of the pieces I saw was superimposed on a diamond cutout in the wall of a construction site. While that space is technically there, it’s not something that could really be graffitied over. There was also monsters coming up out of subway grates and drawings in places that were difficult to reach, though I’m sure the determined parkourist would find a way to tag it in the real world.
Seeing another hidden side of the world was fun. There was art all around us, and no one but myself and the tour guides even knew. Some of the suggested applications for this included scavenger hunts, leaving messages for friends, and just brightening up people’s days. While the app is still in development, I was told that they are working on a way to do mutually collaborative pictures—you don’t want to have anyone be able to scribble all over your sunflowers with a bunch of Harley Quinns after all.
The app will be able to use uploaded pictures so that you can create more elaborate art on a tablet or computer and then drop it anywhere that you want. In a city like New York, this also makes leaving messages easier when you’re trying not to hold up an entire sidewalk of irritated people trying to walk.
The app currently has a stencil function that I ended up testing out, which needed some fine-tuning but let me leave a super cute picture of a dog on a wall. I also took the regular spray can feature of the app for a whirl and doodled some TechRaptor graffiti on the side of the Mark AR installation.
While I’m not sure that Mark AR is something I would personally use, I can definitely see it having a dedicated user base. After all, graffiti is awesome when it’s not being used for nefarious purposes. Plus, who doesn’t love hidden messages?
Would you be interested in using Mark AR to leave messages for your friends? How does collaborative virtual graffiti sound to you? Let us know in the comments below!