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Mural goes high tech with augmented reality feature

Plans in the works for adding more special effects to other murals
The Steam Train On Bridge Over Chemainus River that includes the augmented reality feature, with instructions at the site. (Photo by Don Bodger)

An entirely new way to experience the Chemainus murals is being developed.

Through a company called Hololabs in Victoria, special features will make the murals come alive through your phone. Hololabs, founded in 2011 by researchers in intelligent systems and veterans from AAA gaming, fuses creative interaction design with advanced engineering to create rich but simple new media experiences.

What’s known as an augmented reality experience has already been set up for the Steam Train on Bridge Over Chemainus River mural, No. 3 in the Historical Series, on the Telus building on Willow Street.

“You need a smart phone or iPad with a QR code app and Facebook or Instagram on it,” explained Tom Andrews, Chemainus Festival of Murals Society president. “The mural comes alive with the locomotive and rail cars moving across the bridge, water flows down the river, birds fly out of the trees and there are sound effects.”

Instructions are posted at the mural. After scanning a QR code for either Facebook or Instagram with a camera phone, stand by the nearby clock, point the phone’s camera at the mural with the sound on and also tap the sign for more mural information.

“It’s a real high-tech experience for visitors to see a mural come alive,” said Andrews.

The process is catching on already and it’s only been in place for about a month and a half. Statistics Andrews has received show 191 viewings over a 28-day period, with the bulk of them being from residents of Mexico (27 per cent) and then Canada (23 per cent) and the United States (21 per cent).

“We also wanted to attract a younger demographic and 67 per cent of the viewers are under the age of 34,” Andrews pointed out.

“The next thing we’re doing, we’re going to put some QR codes on four different murals that have special optical illusions or details people might not notice right off the bat.”

When scanning the QR code, a video will show the optical illusion.

The process will be devised for three murals with optical illusions and one in the Emily Carr series with intricate carving details.

“It gives them another experience and more information,” said Andrews. “It enhances their experience with the different techniques instead of a still picture.”


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Instructions for activating the augmented reality feature are posted at the mural. (Photo by Don Bodger)
That train on the mural starts moving on Tom Andrews’ phone. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Tom Andrews sets up the augmented reality experience on his phone. (Photo by Don Bodgeer)
A moving train, rushing waters and other mural features are captured on Tom Andrews’ phone. (Photo by Don Bodger)