Future Playground is an event taking place as part of the New Zealand Festival created by multimedia and digital artists from around the world who have come together to show us the future of art, entertainment, and relaxation. JACK LEONARD has seen the future, and is here to brief you on the best of it.

Prosthetic Reality

Image from Prosthetic Reality Kickstarter

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I walked in the doors of Shed 6, so when I saw a poster instructing me to download an app named Eyejack so that I could experience an augmented reality artbook by Sutu and Lukasz Karlukin named Prosthetic Reality, I was happy to have a goal.

Once you’ve wrapped your head around how Eyejack works, experiencing Prosthetic Reality is both simple and mind-boggling.

The book is an ordinary looking compilation of impressive images by 45 international artists, but when each image is viewed through your phone’s camera they come to life with animation and sound. The process is quick and seamless, and the vision that each artist has for the technology is unique. Some of the pieces from the book have even been enlarged and hung up around Shed 6 so that you can get a better look.

Hot tip: download Prosthetic Reality through the Eyejack app before heading down, as it takes a fair bit of data to acquire at the event.

Manifest 99

Image from Steam

Manifest 99 is a Virtual Reality (VR) game by Flight School that won my pick for the most immersive and seamless VR experience at Future Playground.

The game is a narrative experience wherein you are aboard a train with a murder of crows and four mysterious travelling companions. As the plot unfolds, Manifest 99 turns into a simultaneously grim and hopeful look at death and redemption.

The gameplay is simple. No controllers are required outside of the VR headset; you simply look at things in order to interact with them. Primarily, you’ll be staring into the eyes of crows (could that possibly be symbolism?) in order to shift your perspective to where the crow in question was. There are also items to be found in the environment that provide an insight into the characters on the train.

The artstyle is distinctive and stylish, with the character design and animation being real standouts in various encounters. These encounters are memorable and evocative, making it hilarious to watch others playing the game. The exhibit is set up so that the crowd can see on a TV what the player is seeing through their VR headset.

Hot tip: experience the game for yourself before watching anybody else play it.


SUBPAC Sound Meditation

Image from Future of Storytelling

There are plenty of activities and exhibits that are worth your time at Future Playground, but after losing yourself in various realities and having your perspective shifted so many times that you’re not sure what to believe anymore, SUBPAC Sound Meditation is the perfect experience in which to ground yourself before heading out the door.

The concept is simple: DJ FreQ Nasty (perhaps not the most mindful of names) has created a 13-minute audio journey through both live and recorded soundscapes that synchronise to a strange, torso-mounted device called a SUBPAC physical audio unit. All you have to do is throw on the SUBPAC and a pair of headphones, and then lie down on a beanbag and enjoy the good vibrations.

Hot tip: save it for last.

The future is expansive

The above installations were just what I saw as the best-of-the-best. Fret not about the price of admission, because there is much more to experience in order to justify the small cost required to enter, including:

Pop n’ Lock Dance Machine: Get your body moving as you dance among a cast of animated characters. Great for kids and the young at heart. By Catshrine. Hot tip: you don’t actually have to showcase your awful dancing skills in front of strangers to participate. Just do it.

Infinity Room: Step into the upside-down world of Infinity Room where mesmerising moving light and sound transform the walls, floor and ceiling around you. By Refik Anadol. Hot tip: try lying down.

Lumarca: Be amazed by this captivating light sculpture that shows a variety of mesmerizing and dynamic volumetric imagery . By Matt Parker, Josh Holtsford & Albert Hwang. Hot tip: see every angle.

Pearl: Emmy award winning and Oscar-nominated, Pearl, is a 360 VR story that follows a girl and her dad as they crisscross the country in their beloved hatchback, chasing their dreams. By Patrick Osborne and Google Spotlight Stories. Hot tip: keep some distance from other participants!

Move Studio: Enter a space where unfettered movement takes you in unexpected directions. Built of dance, basketball, and you. By Melissa Painter. Hot tip: only use the triggers on the controllers.

Tree: A haptically enhanced virtual reality experience, transforms participants into a tree in the rain forest, allowing them to experience the tree’s life, from a seedling to its fullest form, and witness its fate firsthand. By New Reality Company. Hot tip: book this early and don’t watch it before you do it.

Exp.Inst.Wood: contemporary, exploratory artworks that fuse low tech with high tech, including interactive art installations, public artworks, and video. By Balam Soto. Hot tip: experiment.

Future Playground is open 12:00PM – 9PM everyday up to and including Sunday 11th March. Tickets are available here.