Unreal Garden introduced many people to location-based augmented reality. The experience combining stunning sets and out-of-this-world effects remains a touchstone in the history of AR exhibits.
However, a reimagined experience is available now. We spoke with the creators about what has changed and why, and how you can experience it for yourself.
Let’s Go for a Walk in the Garden
In case you missed your chance the first time, what is Unreal Garden?
“We like to say that the Unreal Garden is a little bit like Zelda and Burning Man’s neon love child,” Enklu CEO and the experience’s creator/director, Ray Kallmeyer, said in an email to ARPost.
Enklu is a mixed reality company that focuses primarily on 3D asset processing and visual editing. A lot of the company’s use cases are actually in enterprise training and design, but the team also has a soft spot for immersive storytelling. Enklu coming from a background that draws so heavily on physical environments is part of what makes the experience so special.
“On the physical side, it’s not too different than what you’d imagine in setting up ‘leave-no-trace’ art camp: lights, projectors, and physical props to help immerse players in the world,” said Kallmeyer. “For the most part, we’re using elements which can and have been set up and removed in hours rather than months.”
More importantly, this isn’t experienced alone. The set is important, the tech is important, but the group that you go with might be the most important.
“At the end of the day, the real magic comes from the experience you share with your group,” said Kallmeyer. “The technology and the physical installation are both just backdrops for the human interactions you’ll take with you.”
So, if you did see the original, how has it changed? Should you go again? The experience was bound to get better even if nothing changed but the tech. The original experience was practically yesterday in terms of computing, but it was ages ago in terms of mixed reality technology.
“If the original Unreal Garden was like the original NES game console, the new Unreal Garden would be like the Nintendo 64,” said Kallmeyer. “Better graphics, more interactions, better immersion, and a more gripping narrative.”
Naturally, Kallmeyer and his team don’t want to give too much away in terms of how the narrative has changed and expanded. But, changed and expanded it has.
“In the new Unreal Garden, we explore the question: ‘What is real?’ through three distinct worlds broken where the player dives into a story of discovery and empowerment with characters who bring the space to life,” said Kallmeyer.
The new experience is also continuing to change and expand in ways above and beyond the original. Creators can apply to have their work shown on this one-of-a-kind stage.
“The Unreal Garden is the catalyst for an art and technology renaissance co-created by the passions of people who aren’t satisfied with the status quo and those who know there is more to life than what can be found on a screen,” said Kallmeyer.
How to Visit the Unreal Garden
There is an unprecedented number of opportunities to experience the Unreal Garden going forward. Tickets are available now and are currently available through the end of 2021.
As of this writing, the experience lives at a single location in San Francisco, and COVID-19precautions are being taken. However, high demand for the experience, including an early sell-out of additional dates, has already led to an expanded calendar.
Further, while organizers were unable to say anything concrete at this time, there are plans for the experience to become available at other locations around the country by 2022.
What Is Real?
Whether you’ve seen it or not, whether you’re a creator or not, the new and expanded Unreal Garden experience is for anyone “who believe(s) that everyone should have a voice in shaping the next spatial computing generation… who see beauty in and around all of us.”