Tuesday, 18 May 2010


I have to admit, when I first heard the term 'augmented reality' I had little clue as to what it really meant, quickly placing it in the slightly disinterested box, 'oh, another clever bit of technological wizardry that I'll see on an App advert at some point but won't really have an impact on day-to-day life'. So far, so novelty lighter/car remote/paedophile locator.

As the term suggests, the technology operates by enhancing the viewer's ordinary perception of reality, affixing layers of data like images, information and video onto ordinary objects. It is starting to be used more and more frequently in advertising, visual displays, computer games and even business cards. 

Crafty as this all sounds, it wasn't until London Fashion Week that I really started to pay attention. Designer Cassette Playa's showcasing of the spring/summer Neuromance collection saw fashion's first ever augmented reality presentation; merging technology, art, fashion and performance, it is here that the first suggestions of augmented reality's true potential can really be seen.
Those familiar with Cassette Playa recognised the label's signature fierce neons and cartoonised styles, but the real innovation stemmed from the collection's technological dimension, with pieces being interwoven with specialised data that prompted an altogether more distinct experience when viewed through a digital camera.

CASSETTE PLAYA AW1011 - AUGMENTED REALITY from Amazing Grace on Vimeo.

Here, Cassette Playa's graphic digital vision literally evolves before our eyes, with models taking on additional virtual accessories to enhance and intensify the mood of the collection - flashing panels, robotic blue masks and elaborate pixellated headdresses provide an uncanny but undeniably compelling experience for those in the audience. Think Tron on a night out in Shoreditch.

Also, if you haven't done so already, it is really worth checking out POP's Spring/Summer issue, which contains all manner of augmented treats, including interviews, music and behind-the-scenes videos of inspirations for various shoots.

As with the Cassette Playa collection, the magazine embeds numerous ciphers into its pages, which to the untrained non-digital eye look like this:

If you are lucky enough to own an iPhone, you can download POP's [free] app and view augmented reality in all its technological glory through the phone's camera. Alternatively, you can simply hold up the symbols to your webcam. If, on the other hand, this all sounds like far too much work, I have been generous enough to include the video-stream below, which takes a look at the issue's achingly beautiful C.R.E.A.M. shoot.

It's impossible to deny that this is all pretty amazing stuff. Loath as I am to use the phrase, 'what will they think of next?', this intensifying love-in between fashion and the digital age can surely mean only good things.

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