@Fest Virtual reality ARrives at fest

Virtual reality ARrives at fest

Staring at your phone during a National Arts Festival performance is usually frowned upon, but in P(AR)take you are urged to whip out your phone from beginning till end as you embark on a virtual tour of South African dance.

Aurasma: creating virtual worlds in reality

I walked to the Drostdy Arch, awaiting a show that is not like the rest. I was not disappointed. The show started with loading an app, Aurasma, onto our phones. This Augmented Reality (AR) app means that every place can have its own Aura. In P(AR)take each aura is a collection of dance videos from a certain time in South African history.

The show is highly interactive, forcing you to actively engage with the material. Instead of sitting in a seat watching dancers on stage, we were forced to interact with or, rather, P(AR)take in a virtual journey through the history of South African dance. It is marked by various geotagged  festival dance performance venues. A blank piece of paper, a name and a number is all our phones need to reach this virtual world. Each P(AR)taker had to download the app, hover their phone over the piece of paper and click the screen twice. This would retrieve a video from an archive of South African dance handpicked by Creator and Director Jeanette Ginslov.

“I don’t like telling straight, linear stories. They are boring. I’m interested in poetic amplification. There is something about these tools that make it much more real,” says Ginslov.

It was certainly real. It was also a real long walk. Auras have to be spread out. This would be ideal as a walking tour, but Monday’s small crowd of P(AR)takers were perhaps not expecting the exercise as each spot  saw one P(AR)taker drop out of the tour.

The tour, although long, inspired much talk about Augmented Reality and what it has in store for us. According to Ginslov, AR was first developed for the army but has now become commercialised. “The possibilities are endless,” says Ginslov. This virtual tour is the first virtual archive on dance at the moment. Geotagging can also be used in newspapers, real-estate, advertising and many more commercial activities.

A fellow P(AR)taker Carolynn Bruton is a teacher back home in Cape Town. She thinks that Aurasma and AR can be an excellent teaching tool. “Technology can teach things in a way that is much more real, it is just that some teachers are too scared to learn this,” says Bruton.

Ginslov also believes that AR can be used to teach. “It creates a lasting awareness of our heritage. It is seen not just as a book sitting at the back of a drawer. It is a living, breathing archive.” says Ginslov.


– Joni Lindes

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