Augmented Reality Art

MIT Students Made An Interactive, Augmented Reality Mural

This is not your grandparents' mural.

Caroline Haskins

Murals have been around for most of human history, but now they're coming to life. With the help of over twenty-five artists, five students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) transformed an underground tunnel at its campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts into a 200-foot long series of augmented reality murals.

Passerbies can appreciate The Borderline Murals in their two-dimensional form, or download the "BorderlineAR" app for their Android or iOS device and watch the murals live and breathe with site-specific animations.

According to their project website, MIT junior Julia Rue, senior Tara Lee, sophomore Jessie Wang, junior Emma DeSoto, and senior Iris Fung wanted to change students' relationship with the underground tunnels, whose bland, white walls provided a last-resort refuge from Massachusetts weather.

"The tunnel is a useful connection between point A to point B, but The Borderline aims to make it a destination," the website notes.

"The Borderline is a project where we're really trying to get the MIT community involved with art in a kind of informal way," Rue said in a video about the project. "It was open to MIT students to just paint a mural that they want, and have it in a public space so that other people could enjoy it and interact with it."

Almost 180 people attended the project's grand opening according to the Facebook event page.

According to Jessie Wang, the augmented reality coordinator for The Borderline Mural Project, the campus response to the project has been extremely positive.

"It would be really great if this project could continue," Wang said in the video. "Either way, I think it's just really great, and I hear so many people talking about how happy they are that the tunnels have something in them now."

There have been other augmented reality murals in recent years, but The Borderline Mural Project shows that the capability to create these kinds of displays is only becoming more widespread. With the release of new, easier-to-use specialized software like Apple's ARKit, maybe you'll have an augmented reality mural in your community in the near future.