Gateway to the Future is an initiative that aims to make culture more accessible and engaging in the era of the metaverse.
Timo Helgert was challenged by Global technology brand HONOR to reimagine an iconic landmark in Hamburg’s Speicherstadt, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, using augmented reality AR.
Timo’s experience is a futuristic approach, playing on Hamburg’s status as one of the greenest cities in the world and creatively imagining what the iconic Wasserschloss would look if it was transformed by nature, including flora, fauna and fantastical creatures.
What inspired you to become a visual artist?
I started my online art journey at the age of 14, and my first venture in AR was in 2016 when I started to look for new ways to enhance the way I tell important stories. Using new digital techniques, augmented reality, and 3D design, my aim is to create escapist art that instils hope and peace in a busy world.
From 2D to 3D to AR, has it been hard to transition with the technology?
Each space offers something unique. For example: When you start working in 2D, you are working on a flat canvas and you can use this to your advantage. However, in 3D, a full new dimension opens up and if you were used to techniques that worked in 2D space, for example by enhancing footage with visual effects overlays, this won’t work so easily in 3D anymore, since now you have to deal with the artwork from each perspective.
My mentor told me to fixate on this new dimension and ask myself “What idea can I realize that would be impossible in 2D? How can I use this new medium to the fullest?” And when I started working with AR, I always kept his quote in the back of my mind. With AR the viewer has a lot of control over your art. You cannot “direct” them anymore, by preselecting the perspective, composition, lighting, viewing distance, etc. So, you have to design your artwork in such a way that it will look good to anyone, be it another artist who understands how professional lighting and composition works or someone who just pulls out a smartphone to have a fun experience.
Working with HONOR, you had to creatively reimagine an iconic landmark located in Hamburg’s Speicherstadt. What was the most exciting thing about working on this project?
My work is heavily influenced by nature and being from Germany, I was very excited to create an AR experience that reflects Hamburg’s status as one of the greenest cities on the planet. We explored the most iconic sites in Hamburg and got inspired by the beautiful Wasserschloss. My mind immediately went to the concept of “Nature Castle” instead of “Water Castle”, using natural elements as a form of art to imagine a green future where beautiful plants and endangered species can thrive.
How long did it take you to create your piece?
We started brainstorming the concepts in July and it’s incredible to see all we created in a relatively short space of time, all thanks to powerful connected tools, technology and lots of great collaboration.
How have AR experiences helped you as an artist?
AR can transform static art and allows the user to have more control over the artwork. I use AR to create inspiring, escapist art, bringing to life new meanings and engaging experiences that showcase the beauty of art, technology, everyday life and social causes. Through the beauty of AR, art can become richer and bolder, bringing new possibilities for people to appreciate their surroundings. I truly believe that this deeper, more immersive way of interacting with the world will become the norm, and I’m proud to be able to work in this exciting new space.
What’s your top tip for someone trying to become a visual artist?
While there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and everyone’s path is truly unique and challenging, my only advice to them is to explore as much as they can. A creative career needs a lot of exploration, and you only get better with practice and by learning from your mistakes.
What’s the most exciting thing about working with AR?
AR fuels my storytelling by taking people into an escapist world and letting them experience the possibilities of the “What Ifs”. AI and AR technologies will keep evolving and it’s great to see brands like HONOR investing to make these technologies accessible to smartphone users around the world. There was a time when we could run AR experiences only on larger desktops but what is truly exciting is that we can now run these experiences on a smartphone from any corner of the globe. It is simply amazing and I can’t wait to see where this technology takes us!
AR Experiences are Now Live
Available now until the end of November 2022, the Gateway to the Future AR experience can be accessed through the dedicated HONOR page on the free-to-download ARLOOPA app. Users have the option to experience the AR artworks on-site in Hamburg, or anywhere in the world. The on-site experience is anchored to the Wasserschloss building and can be viewed from the Poggenmühlen-Brücke, the bridge opposite the iconic landmark. Users who are not in Hamburg can select “experience on any surface” on the app and follow the on-screen instructions to virtually place the AR experience of their choosing on a flat surface nearby.
Reimagine Your Community with HONOR Talents
Launched as part of the HONOR Talents global design contest, the Gateway to the Future project also aims to inspire creative talent from all around the world to harness technology and reimagine their own communities in the era of the metaverse. For the first time, HONOR Talents is introducing a dedicated Interactive AR Artwork category, and is now accepting applications for digital art that transforms local neighbourhoods, including digital overlays for walls, parks, and other public spaces. Artists interested in the contest can find more information here: hihonor.com/honor-talents/en