Celebrating Georges Méliès, "Patron Saint Of Augmented Reality"
At a time when cinema was about documenting actualities, magician and pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès extended the medium in incredibly novel ways to conjure impossible realities and define bold new conventions for film.
Méliès imagined fantastical worlds in his films, where the marvelous reigned over the mundane, inanimate objects became animate and forms forever shifted, disappeared and reappeared—nothing was fixed or impossible. Through the medium of film, Méliès created enchanted realities.
Today, on what would have been Méliès’ 150th Birthday, I crown George Méliès the patron saint of Augmented Reality (AR). I often reference Méliès in my AR exhibits, articles and public talks, emphasizing the importance of such creative adventurers today to help guide AR’s fantastic future.
So what would have been a fitting birthday gift for Méliès? I suggest an AR banana phone.
A research group at the University of Tokyo has developed a concept for Augmented Reality called Invoked Computing, which can turn everyday objects into communication devices. By making a gesture invoke the device you wish to use, you can activate any ordinary object to suit your communication needs. The computer figures out what you want to do and will grant the selected object the properties of the tool you wish to utilize. How’s that for Magical Realism? Proof of their concept has been created for a pizza box which functions as a laptop computer and a banana which serves as a telephone.
In my recent TEDxDubai talk, I spoke to the power of imagination and make believe in AR. Make believe is about projecting or layering our imagination on top of a current situation or circumstance. In many ways, this is what AR is, too: layering imagined worlds on top of our existing reality. With the Invoked Computing example, make believe becomes an actuality, where new functions are now layered atop ordinary objects, which do not normally possess those traits. The banana is imagined and activated as a working telephone in one moment, returning to its inanimate state afterwards.
Helen Papagiannis at TEDxYorkU 2011: Augmented Reality and the Power of Imagination
Méliès was an incredible make believer and his films presented extraordinary events, which seemingly defied the laws of nature. Invoked Computing and the AR banana phone hint at Méliès’ world of the marvelous in transforming our everyday lives and of inanimate ordinary objects into astonishing animated tools. A true wonderment and Enchanted Reality indeed. Happiest Birthday George!