AR art trail opens for business in Sheffield

A new augmented reality (AR) art trail has opened in Sheffield, UK, featuring moving visual and audio artwork on city centre rooftops.

The ‘Look Up’ project was conceived and produced by Sheffield City Council’s Marketing Sheffield team. It showcases digital works created by Sheffield-based artists and businesses, and is being supported by San Francisco based AR firm, Niantic Labs, who developed the Pokémon Go mobile game.

Using a free app, people will be guided to four central locations – Sheffield Hallam University’s Owen Building; the Central Library and Graves Gallery in Tudor Square; the old John Lewis building in Barkers Pool; and the University of Sheffield’s Diamond building – where QR codes on the floor can be scanned on a smartphone within the app to reveal the portal and artwork.

The AR art will then appear on the user’s screen ‘layered’ over the real world, and will be ‘anchored’ to the rooftop. This allows people to look and listen to the moving and animated displays and share their experiences through photos and videos.

Marketing Sheffield has worked with local companies on the project. The app and AR platform was built by Megaverse. Universal Everything & Human Studio have created the artworks, and Jaywing has provided marketing support.

The project has been funded by the ‘Getting Building Fund’ that is supporting the delivery of projects agreed with mayors and Local Enterprise Partnerships to boost economic growth, and fuel local recovery and jobs. It is hoped that Look Up will encourage visitors to the city centre and people to join the city’s thriving creative and tech sectors, while enhancing Sheffield’s reputation to a global audience

“Ultimately, what this project has created is a platform for the city of Sheffield,” said Mark Mobbs, Place Brand and Marketing Manager for City Campaigns at Marketing Sheffield. “As far as we are aware, no city has used augmented reality in this way before, turning their centre and buildings into a permanent and free, fun art trail.

“We want the trail to grow over time – it would be incredible if Sheffield became known around the globe as the only major city to have an AR art gallery as part and parcel of the city itself. Not only does this promote cultural values, but health and wellbeing too – the trail is designed to be accessed on foot and all locations will be outdoors, meaning our moniker of The Outdoor City, where nature meets culture, can truly come to life.

“We are already in conversation with several partners about additional pieces that can be added throughout 2023, and more information will be released as soon as possible if they come to fruition.”

Look Up is available to download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The easiest way to get it is by visiting the Look Up landing page, where more information can be found about the project and businesses involved, as well as recommendations for visitors to the city on what else to do in the vicinity – including top tips for food, drink, shopping and other cultural activities nearby.

People are encouraged to interact with the project and share their experiences by using #LookUpSheff and tagging @VisitSheffield.