Art Comes “Alive” in Rob McCaffrey’s New Augmented Reality Exhibit

rob-mccaffrey-reception-sept15-groveClick on the collage for a better view of augmented reality technology in action.

By Wendy Jo Moyer

Artistic. High tech. The art of the future.

On Friday, September 11, 2015, approximately 100 faculty, staff, students, actors and the community gathered for a reception held at the Anita S. Wooten Gallery on East Campus to celebrate the new exhibition, “Living Photographs: Augmented Reality in Art” by our own Rob McCaffrey, professor, graphic design.

The technology brought still photos to life through video overlays, displayed on smart phones and tablets, which explored alternative and emotional realities hidden in the printed photographs.

Reception attendee James May, professor, English for Academic Purposes, was impressed with Rob’s work. “I think everything Rob does is amazing,” he shared. “It’s like a fusion of art and education. It’s edutainment.”

So, how does the technology work?

  • Bring a smart phone or tablet, preferably with headphones. But, if you don’t have your headphones, the experience will still be great.
  • When you arrive, or before if you want to prepare, download and install the Aurasma app from Google Play or the iOS App Store.
  • Then, use the app’s magnifying glass icon to search and follow Rob McCaffrey’s channel.
  • Now the fun can start. Use the Aurasma scanner to scan a photo (no QR code needed) and watch the image come to life through the video overlays that explore the themes of depression, addiction and lost love.

For video directions, click below.

“I hope my work inspires people to see what’s possible with technology,” said Rob. “We’re at the beginning of augmented reality as an art form, and it’s really exciting.”

Rob first saw an example of augmented reality in 2006 at NAB, the annual convention of the National Association of Broadcasters. The application he saw was an advertisement — a three-dimensional model of a car that tracked with a printed magazine ad for the same vehicle.

“At the time, I considered the technology to be unfathomable, but it was only a few years later that developers had created simple augmented reality studios and apps that solved nearly every problem short of the creation of the content,” he said. “It was doing a simple experiment — an attempt to track particle system smoke to a picture of a cigar smoker — that I first saw some of the potential applications for art.”

Rob explained as he presented to the group the depth of this technology. For example, a photo does not have to be used to trigger the response. It could be anything that the camera understands, such as a building.

What does Rob plan next for his new artwork? He will be working with John DiDonna, professor, theater, on a living photographs project for John’s performance group, Phantasmagoria, a performance troupe of storytellers, dancers and chorus who tell tales of terror, as well as horrific folk stories, legends and myths from around the world.

Rob’s exhibit will be on display at the Anita S. Wooten Gallery on West Campus, Building 3, Room 112 through Friday, October 2, 2015. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.


  • Amy Bosley said:

    We really enjoyed the exhibit, Rob. You are talented and always on the cutting edge. Thanks for sharing your talent with us!

    PMWed, 16 Sep 2015 22:12:22 +0000Wed, 16 Sep 2015 22:12:22 +0000pm15,10:12 pm

  • Robert McCaffrey said:

    Thanks, Amy! Great seeing you and Mike there.

    AMSat, 19 Sep 2015 08:23:33 +0000Sat, 19 Sep 2015 08:23:33 +0000am15,8:23 am

  • Karen Cowden said:

    It was such a super, fun event! How innovative and inspiring. Also, thanks for letting me use your iPad, Rob!

    AMMon, 21 Sep 2015 02:44:23 +0000Mon, 21 Sep 2015 02:44:23 +0000am15,2:44 am

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