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#SWXW2019 – Augmenting ARt

Brian Behm is an Artist Using the world as his canvas and digital elements as brushtrokes. Tech Trends catches up to him at South by Southwest in Austin. 

By Laura Kobylecky

Brian Behm is here at The South by Southwest Conference in Austin as both a speaker and mentor. He wears many hats as an  artist, creative director, and motion designer. Visual communication seems a native language to him. Constantly vigilant for new ideas, he is currently focusing creative energy on the potential of Augmented Reality.

Everything in life is relational at some level Click To Tweet

Augmented Reality is different from Virtual Reality. In VR you are immersed in a fully-virtual world. Everything you see does not exist. In Augmented Reality there is an addition, an augmentation, to reality. You are adding virtual elements on top of the existing reality. The technology is not a substitute, it is simply a bonus.

The technology is not a substitute, it is simply a bonus Click To Tweet

Brian Behm’s work with AR is part of his long journey as an artist and creative. In a way, it was technology that brought him to Austin. His online life was a meaningful augmentation to his social circle. He met friends through a Usenet group and then had “gotten to know each other at music festivals over the years and really kind of bonded with and one of them was in my wedding and I was in his wedding.”

Brian Behm is here at The South by Southwest Conference in Austin as both a speaker and mentor Click To Tweet

These friends, brought together by technology were what drew Behm to Austin. He explains that “we had people that wanted us here.” Once in Austin, naturally, he was involved in South by Southwest when he helped a friend get a film into the festival. He made the titles, many of the effects and did the marketing. After he did that, he had responses of “oh you did that, you want to work on my thing?”

As Behm explains, “everything in life is relational at some level.” Those connections were what eventually led him to become the fourteenth person in Austin’s Rooster Teeth Productions, LLC, a media and entertainment company partially known for their successful web series Red vs. Blue.

At one point, he was in charge of all merch development. This experience led him to a particularly significant moment as a designer. The brand was already quite popular and the merchandise was selling. However, online sales are numbers. When Behm went to Rooster Teeth’s official convention, he saw his work being worn and appreciated by their “very loyal fan base.”

Constantly vigilant for new ideas, Behm is currently focusing creative energy on the potential of Augmented Reality Click To Tweet

He explains that “having a tactile experience, as a designer, of seeing people wear your stuff or interact with stuff you’ve created is a magical thing.” This experience “meant a lot” to Behm, and seems to be part of his inspiration to seek new ways to interact with art and audiences.  

While he valued his time at Rooster Teeth, he felt that “there’s only so much you can do with one brand.” He got curious and developed a desire to “see other kinds of content being made.” He realized that “there were things that I wanted to put into the world.”

Behm’s work with AR is part of his journey as an artist and creative Click To Tweet

This is what led him to his recent experiments with Augmented Reality. He wanted to make some new content. He saw potential in AR. He observed “the implementation of Instagram filters and how people have adapted to that.” Behm thought “It’s cool, in that people don’t think anything of putting bunny ears on their heads anymore.” It seems the world may be warming to this trend.

Behm emphasizes the importance of timing. He explains timing is partially to credit for the success of Red vs. Blue and “that door closes after that happens like that doesn’t happen again that way.” With AR as an emerging technology, now might be the right time to experiment in the early stages. He explains that it’s about plotting out a position so when the rest of the world finally gets there. At least you were there at that point and time.”

He thinks of AR as a way toturn a shirt into a content experience.” His experience with “design and production” could meet up with “the physical design that I do.” He is also inspired by his daughter, “a super-cool arty little girl.” He asked himself “what she might want as a 20-something.” He imagined a “situation where she wants to wear a shirt that says that she’s strong…but she wouldn’t want to wear a shirt that says that she’s strong.”

He sees augmented reality as a way to have the message “buried” in the shirt, where it could be a hidden message “almost becomes like a mantra.” The shirt would seem like a normal “cool shirt” but “I know that it has this other meaning if I pull out the app I can see it…But I don’t need to look at it, I just know that it’s there.”

He thinks of AR as a way to 'turn a shirt into a content experience.' Click To Tweet

These hidden messages are part of his concept. He already has the “minimum viable product” for the project. It’s a sticker of a vivid blue hand with the word “NO-SYS” written in the palm. This experience is powered by the Artivive app which gives artists and museums the ability to easily incorporate Augmented Reality into their existing artistic content. Behm explains that “Nosys is the Greek word for knowledge… also an ancient cult called the Gnostics. It’s all about ancient knowledge.” Furthermore, it’s a reference to the idea of “no systems,” an homage to the idea of “breaking out of current systems.”

Scan the code in the picture an image appears. This is where his hidden message comes in “starting March 20th. This will update for 20 weeks.” Anyone with a sticker will have access to the change vision that appears. It will be an Augmentation to their Reality.

This sticker sits plainly on the table. It’s just a hand now. A sticker, like any other of the million stickers, handed out and purchased at SXSW. “Do you see me?” the sticker might wonder. Who will be seeking its hidden messages in Augmented Reality?

having a tactile experience, as a designer, of seeing people wear your stuff or interact with stuff you’ve created is a magical thing Click To Tweet

Brian Behm explains that this is a chance to “experiment on something that’s mine.” This is only the beginning of the “kinds of crazy directions” he may go. The world of AR is a new sandbox to work in and artists like Brian Behm might make some very cool things here.

With AR as an emerging technology, now might be the right time to experiment in the early stages Click To Tweet

Tech Trends’  Virtual Reality Consultancy services offers support for companies looking to enhance brand strategy with immersive technologies such as Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality

Laura Kobylecky is a writer. She is particularly interested in new and emerging technology and culture. Connect with her on LinkedIn