2012 Hong Kong, China
Collaborator: Jeffrey Shaw, Leith Chan
Software: Leith Chan
Production: ALiVE/ACIM, School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong
Pure Land AR employs iPad screens that visitors use as mobile viewing devices to explore the magnificent Buddhist wall paintings inside Cave 220, a cave dated to early Tang, from the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang in Gansu province, China. It is an innovative augmented-reality installation whereby the paintings and sculptures of the caves are rendered virtually within the architecture of a simply constructed rectangular room that shares same dimensions as those of Cave 220 itself.
This new technical rendering of Pure Land (2012) is facilitated by the use of infrared cameras that accurately track the position and orientation of two iPads as they are being handled by the visitors. The cameras can detect these iPads because of small optical markers that are attached to their frames. Computers then create the appropriately rendered views of the actual Dunhuang cave, which are transmitted to the iPads via a Wi-Fi connection.
The walls of the booth are covered with full-scale photographic prints, made by the Dunhuang Academy, that show laser scans of the architecture of Cave 220. These provide a structural and aesthetic alignment between the space of the room and that of the cave. This is especially evident when a viewer places the iPad interface directly up against a wall, at which point its laser-scan background becomes augmented by a 1:1 scale rendition of its painted surface on the iPad screen.
Pure Land AR demonstrates the future of mobile media and augmented reality as a means of virtually embodying 1:1 scale cultural heritage experiences. It creates a space for the conjunction between real and virtual formations that gives transacted aesthetic expression to Dunhuang’s Buddhist art treasury of mural paintings and sculptures. Visitors to Pure Land AR immediately grasp the functionality of the iPads, drawing them to walk around the room and explore the imagery of Cave 220. Furthermore, the experience generates spontaneous discussion among these visitors, as well as ‘virtual tourism’ as people enthusiastically photograph the imagery on the iPad with their own cameras.