Better Than Reality

The Better Than Reality project


The Better Than Reality program was part of the V2_Lab’s artistic research into augmented reality. This research focused on technical research and the development and realization of augmented reality systems. Through the application of augmented reality within an artistic and cultural context, V2_ saw an opportunity to give these media more intellectual depth, signal current social developments surrounding this technology, and signpost the way toward future technological developments in the sector.

Better Than Reality was a public elaboration of this research that was principally aimed at making augmented reality technologies accessible to artists.


The goal of Better Than Reality was twofold:

i.    Making the knowledge about augmented reality developed at V2_Lab accessible to artists, as well as opening up the hardware and software platform.

ii.   Knowledge exchange between artists, experts and students from different disciplines around interaction scenarios and cinematographic (image and sound) aspects of immersive augmented reality experiences.


Components: Residencies and Public Events

Three artist residencies were held to make the knowledge about augmented reality gained at V2_Lab more accessible. Each resident artist investigated a different part of augmented reality. The artists and their areas of focus were:

These investigations resulted in numerous demonstrations, sketches for installations, and toolsets for making AR art. A  workshop was held for the purpose of exchanging knowledge; here, the results of the residencies were used, and experts and students were able to work with the toolsets that had been developed. All results were also exhibited at a special edition of Test_Lab devoted to augmented reality.




Better Than Reality was held under the umbrella of the MultimediaN research program. Within MultimediaN, V2_Lab developed a tracking system that could be used to follow a player’s absolute position and orientation. V2_Lab also worked on the V2_ Game Engine (VGE). The goal of the VGE was to create a game engine that allowed various augmented reality experiences to be created in a simple manner.


Evaluation and Conclusions

During the project, we found that making augmented reality art was still very complex. The tools that were developed are usable, but a programmer/developer will often still be needed to produce a work that goes further than a prototype. On the other hand, particularly in the workshop, we found that students and artists were capable of taking the available tools and running with them. An important conclusion V2_Lab drew from this was to offer the tools we develop as packages more often – that is, not in the form of a monolithic toolset but as separate, modular tools. This will make it even simpler to combine these tools with others already being used in the field; the implementation of SPASM in Max/MSP is a good example. We will be continuing these efforts in the near future.

The Better Than Reality project did not take place in a vacuum; it was preceded by the activities of V2_Lab within the scientific project MultimediaN. A broad spectrum of potential projects arose out of this project, which focused on the artistic possibilities and characteristics of augmented reality. For example, we are currently looking into the possibility of organising a second workshop. We expect to realize many more interesting projects in the area of augmented reality.

Better Than Reality ran from April through December 2008 and was supported by the Mondriaan Foundation and the city of Rotterdam’s art and culture department.



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