What will be the defining art form of the 21st Century?
On the latest episode of Creativity Squared, a chronic disruptor in the world of digital art shares his hard-won perspective on what separates new technology hype from sustainable art forms that unlock new possibilities for expression.
Our guest, Sergiu Ardelean, is a serial entrepreneur from Austria with a passion for pushing boundaries. He’s the CEO and Co-founder of Artivive, which is a startup venture founded in 2017 that fuses haptic and digital art with the captivating power of augmented reality.
Artivive has offices in Europe, the US, and China, working with an amazing community of over 250,000 creatives spanning 190 countries. Artivive is collaborating with some of the most renowned museums and galleries in Vienna, Munich, San Francisco, Seoul, and Shanghai. You’ll hear in the episode how the art scene is embracing augmented art to explore new dimensions of artistic expression.
Prior to Artivive, Sergiu founded a highly successful augmented reality agency right in the heart of Vienna that served big names like Volkswagen and Audi, making waves in 42 countries around the world.
The episode explores the true value proposition of emerging technologies for storytelling and the artistic process, how digitally extended art is helping museums and independent artists create lasting experiences, and what comes next for augmented reality.
Sergiu’s fascination with creating art using technology started early. He began experimenting with digital art during high school in his native country of Romania during the 1990s. It wasn’t long before he decided that he wanted to pursue digital art in college and potentially as a career.
However, he couldn’t find a university program in Romania that matched his interests. Sergiu’s search (pre-internet) eventually led him to the cultural attaché office at the Austrian Embassy in Bucharest. He learned about a program at a university in northern Austria, where he went on to study emerging technology and multidisciplinary art forms.
Sergiu says he thought that he would complete his degree in Austria and then return home to Romania to start his career.
22 years later and still calling Austria home, it’s clear that life had other plans for him.
Following college, Sergiu says he felt the pressure to get a job as soon as possible to help support his family back in Romania.
He started his first job out of college at a marketing agency, but after two years found himself yearning to work on more creatively and technologically ambitious projects.
Around the same time, his friend had developed a technology with Sony that enabled custom personalized CDs by embedding a unique code on the disk.
The two went into business together, starting their own agency specializing customized CDs direct marketing. They managed to land Volkswagen and Audi as early clients, and their agency started growing rapidly, opening an office in Shanghai and developing campaigns all across the world.
However, cracks started forming around 2010, when Apple began phasing out CD drives from their products. Sergiu knew that the business needed to pivot in order to stay relevant.
The pair considered switching their delivery method from CDs to USB drives, but determined that USBs would be prohibitively expensive.
During a trip to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Sergiu first encountered the technology that would propel their business through the next decade. An early pioneer of augmented reality (AR) technology, Metaio (acquired by Apple in 2015), was demonstrating the technology that they had developed years earlier as an offshoot of a project with Volkswagen.
Sergiu partnered with Metaio and began producing AR marketing campaigns just as the technology was starting to gain mainstream traction. Volkswagen commissioned a campaign, and Sergiu’s marketing agency was reborn.
After a few years, though, Sergiu started to notice that engagement with their AR campaigns was not what they were expecting. He started conducting interviews to try to understand what was going on, eventually reaching the conclusion that the AR technology was perceived as “gimmicky” by the people they were trying to reach.
Sergiu realized then that AR was not actually providing value in the way that they were deploying it. People were looking for information in a format that they were comfortable with, and few were willing to go the extra step that the technology required (scanning a code or downloading an app) just to be served an advertisement. The realization was a crucial moment for his business and his thinking about the relationships between art, technology, and society.
Around 2016, 11 years into his marketing career, Sergiu determined that he would need to shift his entire business model again. This time, he needed to change more than just the marketing delivery method; he’d need to build an entirely new product for a completely different kind of customer.
Sergiu co-founded Artivive with Codin Popescu in early 2017, based on the idea of democratizing artists’ access to AR technology to augment their own works.
Recognizing Sergiu’s conviction, Codin agreed to partner up despite not fully understanding the vision of what Artivive could become. Six years later, the platform now serves over 250,000 artists and a wide collection of commercial clients.
Sergiu says that the goal of the platform is to help artists “see themselves and work in both spaces,” digital and traditional.
With Artivive, everyday artists can design a digital extension of their artwork in a 2D or 3D environment. The viewer can then scan the actual image in physical space (QR code not needed) and Artivive’s Bridge system will automatically recognize the image and display the digital extension through the lens of the phone screen. The digital extension can be almost any form of digital media and can serve many purposes, such as by bringing an artwork to life through animation or helping viewers understand the backstory of a particular work.
As the story goes, Schiele was working on a commissioned painting of a seated woman in a dress. The buyer, however, rejected Schiele’s first submission, telling him that the quilted patchwork dress he painted onto the woman made her look poor and would clash with the other works in the collection. Schiele went back to the easel and painted a regal new dress over the female subject, who turned out to be his second wife, Edith. The story about social class, love, and World War 1-era Austrian society adds meaning to the painting that staff at the museum had trouble articulating to patrons.
In partnership with Artivive, experts from the museum were able to recreate the original dress. Now, museum visitors can see the painting as Schiele originally intended by simply holding their phone up.
Artivive provides similar experiences at museums, galleries, and festivals all over the world, such as the Shanghai Himalayas Museum, the Ying Art Center in Shanghai, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Ilmin Museum of Art in Seoul, and the Leica Gallery in Singapore.
Just as importantly, Artivive also supports a global community of artists engaged in diverse art forms and disciplines.
Sergiu says he felt touched recently by a phone conversation he had with an older landscape painter who uses Artivive to show his clients a video of the entire painting process from start to finish. The painter told Sergiu that the joy for them is in the creation process, and he appreciates the ability to share that joy with his clients through the Artivive digital extension of his work.
For Sergiu, moments and experiences like these are the real value that Artivive provides. While the technology of augmented reality is certainly cool and is poised to become even cooler as hardware improves, he says that the technology itself should take a backseat to the experience that it enables.
Machine learning is not a particularly new technology for Sergiu and Artivive. A.I. is working under the hood of its Bridge content management system, which assigns a unique “fingerprint” to each image that triggers the correct digital extension when scanned by viewers.
However, as of right now, the platform does not include any native generative A.I. capability. He recognizes the impact of products like Canva Magic, which enables even those with little or no design experience to produce layouts and digital art through a natural language prompt. However, he’s careful not to repeat the mistakes of his past and get caught up in the hype of a new technology.
Sergiu’s idea of value is centered around the experience. For instance, he says that most people who need directions do not care much about global positioning satellites or integrated transportation monitoring networks. They just care about getting from point A to point B as conveniently as possible. Similarly, the technical specifics of the technology supporting or transmitting the art itself are not, and should not be the focus of emerging digital art.
He cites a presentation he heard by the Austrian graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister who says that A.I.-generated images are looking more and more similar, and it’s easier to tell when an image is generated by a machine.
He likens the phenomenon to the early days of Photoshop. As it became more ingrained with the creative process of so many disciplines, the excitement around it dwindled, and it became just another tool.
Sergiu says that the value is not in the tool itself, but in what the tool can help its users express.
He highlights two new features that Artivive recently added to their AR design studio: 3D spatial audio and a particle system. 3D spatial audio allows creators to place audio elements in digital space as if they were coming out of speakers in physical space, so when the user moves around, the volume increases or decreases and some elements are stronger than others. A particle system is useful for simulating fire, smoke, rain, and clouds out of countless little particles. Particle systems can help increase the ambiance of a digital scene and make the experience feel more immersive.
Sergiu says that both features were developed and launched with the goal of adding value by improving the experience for creators and consumers. Sergiu says that an understanding of the value that prioritizes new capabilities for storytelling and expression is more sustainable than offering new features based purely on what’s trending in technology.
Going forward, he believes that this understanding of value will determine the winners and losers of current and future tech trends.
Sergiu says he’s encouraged by Apple’s emphasis on the experience that its Vision Pro Goggles will unlock, rather than the resolution or the other technicals.
Yet the question still remains for him: what will become the defining art form of the 21st century?
Thank you, Sergiu, for being our guest on Creativity Squared.
This show is produced and made possible by the team at PLAY Audio Agency: https://playaudioagency.com.
Creativity Squared is brought to you by Sociality Squared, a social media agency who understands the magic of bringing people together around what they value and love: http://socialitysquared.com.
Because it’s important to support artists, 10% of all revenue Creativity Squared generates will go to ArtsWave, a nationally recognized non-profit that supports over 150 arts organizations, projects, and independent artists.
[00:00:00] Sergiu Ardelean: I would maybe ask a question. And this is a question that we are somewhat trying to answer, or we think that we have the answer, but still is every century has its own art form. In the last century, we had photography and film the first century where technology started to become an art form.
And my question is what will be the art form of the 21st century?
[00:00:24] Helen Todd: Sergio Ardelean is a serial entrepreneur from Austria with a passion for pushing boundaries. He’s the CEO and co-founder of Artivive, which is a startup venture founded in 2017 that fuses haptic and digital art with the captivating power of augmented reality.
Artivive is the AR solution for artists and has the vision to change how art is created and consumed. Artivive has offices in Europe, the US, and China, and an amazing community of over 250,000 creatives. Spanning 190 countries, Artivive is collaborating with some of the most renowned museums and galleries in Vienna, Munich, San Francisco, Seoul, and Shanghai.
You’ll hear in the episode how the art scene is embracing augmented art to explore new dimensions. of artistic expression. Prior to Artivive, Sergiu founded a highly successful augmented reality agency right in the heart of Vienna that served big names like Volkswagen and Audi, making waves in 42 countries around the world.
Sergiu and I met at the Bold Unconference, a fantastic and inspiring event that the Austrian Chamber of Commerce hosted across four cities in Austria, including a stop in Linz for Ars Electronica. And I’m so excited to share our conversation with you today that started on a charter bus from Salzburg to Vienna, where I got to see postcards come to life with Artivive.
I couldn’t be more excited to have Sergiu on the show. In today’s episode, you’ll discover how to move AR beyond a gimmick, but as a medium to add value to enhance stories and experiences around art. You’ll hear case studies about museums and independent artists using Artivive to bring artworks to life.
Serju discusses how Artivive uses AI and machine learning, and also shares his thoughts on the new Apple Vision Pro and how AR classes will become more seamlessly integrated into our lives. Sergiu sees AI as a tool that can enhance human creativity and storytelling versus replace it and that human creativity will always be needed.
Sergiu believes that art will adapt and use new mediums as a mirror of society. He also asks, What will be the art form of the 21st century? Enjoy.
Welcome to Creativity Squared. Discover how creatives are collaborating with artificial intelligence in your inbox, on YouTube, and on your preferred podcast platform. Hi, I’m Helen Todd, your host, and I’m so excited to have you join the weekly conversations I’m having with amazing pioneers in the space.
The intention of these conversations is to ignite our collective imagination at the intersection of AI and AI. AI and creativity to envision a world where artists thrive. Just a dream.
[00:03:30] Helen Todd: Sergiu, it is so wonderful to have you on the show. Welcome to Creativity Squared.
[00:03:36] Sergiu Ardelean: Thank you so much. Thank you for the invitation. I was looking forward to the whole day to it.
[00:03:40] Helen Todd: Well, it’s so good to have you for our listeners and viewers. We met in Austria at the Bold Unconference that the Austrian Chamber of Commerce put together.
And it was absolutely wonderful. Our guest Walter was also from the conference, and I’m so excited to hear all about Artivive today, but let’s start with your origin story and how you ended up in Austria. Cause you’re not native born like Walter is.
[00:04:05] Sergiu Ardelean: Exactly. That’s a great question. So I was born in Romania, in, in Transylvania, actually, also like my last name of that means Transylvanian.
And during my high school I started, you know, doing graphics on the computer and this was like the end of the nineties and I fell in love with it. So I somehow decided this is what I want to study. This is what I want to do, you know, in my life. And I started searching for universities in Romania.
And back then all the universities in Romania didn’t have a website. So I had to travel around the country and find you know, The university doesn’t see what they’re offering. And it was very disappointing to see that none of the university universities had anything, you know, with multimedia and graphics, it was either design.
That means like, you know, you’re drawing and, you know, learning and studying design or computers. So development programming. And I was like, I don’t want. None. It’s like, I want, you know, be creative with technology, with computers. So then when I was in Bucharest. And this is a funny story that I want to tell you I was you know, disappointed and I was like, ah, I don’t know what to do.
And I really want to do this. So I suppose I you know, want to go and study abroad. And so phone booth we had that back then. And in the. In the phone booths there were also you know, the phone books where you’d find all the names of everybody with the phone numbers and the address.
So I looked up at the embassies and Austria was pretty on the top. So I found out the address, went there, there was like this police guy and he was like, what do you want? And it was like, I want to study in Austria. And it’s like, I have no idea, go inside. And they somehow managed to, you know, to.
Get and to talk to the cultural attache from the Austrian embassy. And it was like, this is amazing. You know in Austria, we have more and more universities offering this, and there’s a new one, which is in upper Austria. And I think it’s a good fit. So long story short I landed on a train and went to the university and they were like, this is great.
We have now the exams. And it was like, ah, interesting. You have exams. So I did that. And then afterwards I also had an interview and then was the moment that I learned that there were like 700 you know, students wanted to grab one of the 70 seats that they had like 70 you know, spots for the year.
And I was like, oh, I will not make it. It’s like, I didn’t came prepared. They also speak in German. But then I got received a call after a few weeks and they said, yeah, pack your things and come to Australia. And I thought that it’ll be for the starting and then I will go back home and then start my career there.
But this happened 22 years ago and I’m still here.
[00:06:48] Helen Todd: Well, I love that you landed in Austria and it was from like the top of the phone book. Another country, you could be in a totally different city or country depending on which page you open to. So I love that.
[00:07:03] Sergiu Ardelean: It was funny because I thought that, you know, if it works so well with Austria why I shouldn’t try with other countries.
So I, I want to. the German embassy and try the same thing. And they were like, okay, it’s, you know, this is an embassy. That’s not a university. So if you want to study in Germany, like find a way to study in Germany. So it was just Austria that was so open. And you know, I had the opportunity to talk to somebody who knew what’s happening in Austria and had me decide to go there.
Oh, come here.
[00:07:32] Helen Todd: I love that. And from schooling in Austria to where you’re at today is the CEO of Artivive. Can you tell us your founders story? Cause what you’re doing is so cool. And it’s at the very like cutting edge of art and augmented reality right now.
[00:07:51] Sergiu Ardelean: Of course. Sure. You know, it’s the moment that I also came to Austria and decided to go on the creative path.
I would say I saw myself always as a creative, but also very much in love with technology. So back then in the 2000s, I didn’t really find my feet. You know, it was just When people were talking about if you know, somebody or a company needs a website or if emails are better than fax. So that was a time where, you know, I was creating digital artworks.
We can say this and also fascinated of how you can be creative using different tools and software. So when I started studying this was my focus, but the university also gives me a very holistic understanding of the technology and also how to develop the program, how systems are built.
I also, you know, learned to put hardware together. We also had film classes where we were acting and filming and the same with audio. So I had a very holistic approach on. everything that’s multimedia, but also with a creative touch. And I think that was the ground for, you know what is today because when I came out of university, um, I had to sustain myself, my whole family.
Wasn’t still is in Romania, so I had to find a way to earn money. And the low hanging fruit was marketing, uh, because it was creative you know, it was discovering technology and it was well paid. So I started working at the agency and I was a little bit disappointed. I worked there like for two years that they weren’t really being the state of the art, what I learned at the university and they weren’t applying it in marketing and the trials from my position is like, Hey, we could do this campaign and we could use this software.
That was also the rise of flash websites where it was like the, I would say the first attempt of the Metaverse where you could go in a, you know, in a website and have in experience and entertainment there. So I didn’t really had you know, the path that the agency that I was looking for and with a friend with Clemens we decided to somehow build our own agency.
He was already doing something in this direction. And he had like a technology developed together with Sony where they could produce on mass CDs but with the code inside and with this code, we could personalize the CDs. So we had the idea to create the cities like direct marketing.
You imagine that, you know, you receive a CD. With the mail and you have a digital content on it, which is also personalized. And again, this was back in the 2000s. So CDs were cool.
And before we, because we started doing that, we somehow, and also with the amazing skills of team and to sell everything we managed to win Volkswagen and Audi as our clients. And then our agency grew very fast. We also opened an office in Shanghai. We did campaigns all over the world.
And at some point Apple decided that we don’t need CDs anymore. So they weren’t building hardware with CD support. So we had a problem. It’s like, because that was more or less our business model. And. We had an idea, okay, we can go with the technology and now use USB sticks. But unfortunately they were much more expensive.
And also the production was you know, took longer than you know, pressing CDs. So that didn’t work out the way that we wanted, but then it was a little bit we went to fair the mobile Congress. The world mobile world Congress in Barcelona, and there was a very small stand from a company called Natalio and they were talking about augmented reality.
So we talked with them. And that was fascinating. It’s like, imagine how amazing it will be if we could use augmented reality for our clients, like folks to do marketing. And then we started working with the tile. We won over Volkswagen, so we started doing a, our campaigns and back in the day was for the, this was 2010, 11 it was groundbreaking because of the technology.
So you could, you know, position your car in the living room or in front of your house. Change the different colors of the car and the reams and, you know, to see it live in front of you or scan you know, an ad when we’re waiting for the bus or in a magazine. And then see the car in 3D.
We loved it as well as our client. But after a few years, we saw that the engagement and the users weren’t as expected. And I tried to understand why. So I started having interviews and the problem? Why aren’t they, you know so amazed by the technology and the content as we were and our client and I just realized in afterwards that we weren’t really creating a value. It was more like a gimmick and I think this is an issue for many implementations or projects or products in the space because it’s just a very interesting and gimmicky way to show information.
But it’s not necessarily the shortest way. This means, for example you know, if you want to see how a color, like the car could look in different colors. You already maybe have the cataloging in front of you or you can, you know see in the dealership how the different colors look.
In real, it’s not just a 3D rendering. We also have had an implementation with them. Manual where you could get into the car and scan the dashboard and have all the information. But we see that people rather would Google is like, what is this button do right instead of installing an app.
And I was a little bit disappointed after the whole work that we put in and also being on the creative side. And there was also after 11 years of marketing, I was like, ah. It’s not really the space that I want to be in. And after I had a time of like half a year and was able to travel the world came back and had this idea is like, what would happen if we take this technology?
Strip it of everything, which is technical and make it like, you know, no code solution for artists. How would they use the technology? How would they start telling narratives? And when I had this idea, I called my friend who was my co- founder. And it’s like, I think I have something, I think it will be something that will you know, will have a lot of fun building.
I’m not sure how far we’ll be going with it because it’s still in arts and culture. But I think there is something about it. And I pitched him the idea. I can remember I visited the team. We went to, you know the pizzeria that was across of his house and had like canned beer and chatting about it.
Yeah. And he was like, I understood like 50 percent of what you said, but you seem very you know “believer” in the idea and then the outcome. So let’s try it. And this was 2000 end of 2016. So 2017 we started the idea and our road together. And here we are. After six years, we have a little bit more than a quarter of a million of artists all around the world work with our platform.
[00:15:23] Helen Todd: That’s amazing. And congratulations to for six years and over a quarter million users. That’s amazing. And I love that you said that flash was the first entry to the numbers. I haven’t heard that before, so I might borrow that. And you kind of explained the no code and the AR, but can you tell us more like what artists can do with Artivive in terms of like bringing their art alive and like how it actually functions, because I know we’ll put stuff on the website but a lot of people will just be listening.
So can you kind of help us visualize the experience?
[00:15:56] Sergiu Ardelean: Yes. Yes. It’s a little bit hard. I always as you can remember, I have my postcards and my business cards. We are, which are some artworks because this is the easiest way to showcase what we’re doing. But I will try my best. So imagine how you know, the traditional art world if we’re looking at museums and galleries would be connected with the NFTs, metaverse, animations, GIFs, artists that are just in digital space.
So what are we doing is we’re trying to bring these two worlds together and an artwork which can be, again, something that’s in a museum, in a gallery, but can be also street art or can be a tattoo or can be a sticker or, you know, can be a piece of fashion, can be extended with digital story. So if you’re looking through the phone, for now.
And we hope that the classes will come. You can see this piece of art come to life with a digital narrative. That means imagine that you have a poster that has a message, like don’t look here. For example, and then you scan it and then this message is transforming to something else. You know, the story is going further or it’s you know, shifting is like, thank you for looking and you have somebody who’s telling you a story.
So I think the idea is that. We want to bring artists to see themselves and work in both spaces, right? So a traditional artist that’s maybe just a painter, just, um, I mean, it’s focusing on painting would also be able to show the process. So just a recording of how his painting and show how the painting is, you know, made.
So to give a different context to the person which is looking at the painting or, you know, using a different digital storytelling behind it. So to, to enhance or to extend the artwork also in a digital space. And at the same time, imagine you know, a digital artist that can hang in a museum, like a MoMA without a screen, without a projection to just be a painting or just be an illustration, which is framed and on a wall.
So I think this is like the bigger vision that we have. And how we managed to do this is that you have, you know, a platform was an editor where you can just upload an image, which can be the represent, or it is the representation in the reality. We call it trigger and then the digital extension, which can be literally anything from just sound another image.
A video or 3D model, a particle system, a text, whatever you want. You can just, you know connect these two parts and then the artwork become one, which will have two representations. One in the haptic, real world and one in the interactive digital world.
[00:18:53] Helen Todd: I love that you’re bridging the virtual and the real world together for artists and making it super easy.
I have one of the postcards, which I haven’t shown my nephew yet, but I should already say thank you for making me look like a very cool. And it is really cool to see in person. I think how you explained it to us in Austria is like more or less, you’re taking the artwork and turning it into a QR code that the phones read and then they come alive from that. It’s very cool to see in person. It’s has like this very magic element to it.
[00:19:24] Sergiu Ardelean: For the podcast listener. Maybe listeners, maybe. It would work also to go on our Instagram. We are featuring their every day a new artist. It’ll be @Artiviveapp. It’s our handle. So yeah.
Just feel free. Maybe during listening to just see some of the artworks, then maybe it makes more sense what they just said.
[00:19:46] Helen Todd: Yeah. I’ll be sure to include all of the links to everything in the dedicated episode post. Well in, because the show is about. How creatives are collaborating with AI. And I know you talked a lot about the AR. But we’re I’m sure just on the back end tech side that AI plays a role in Artivive. So I’d love to hear where I fits into what you do.
[00:20:09] Sergiu Ardelean: So we already use AI for some time now. So like you mentioned, the image becomes a QR code. We have a model behind it, which is recognizing the artwork. And then, you know, can deliver the content that is linked to it and also track it.
So we already have you know, parts behind it where we have machine learning learning you know, how to find the right artwork or to link it to the right digital extension. And What do we also see here? And the thing is like, you know, the AI is now moving so fast. So I just realized, you know, that one year ago about this time, we didn’t have chat GPT, right?
So we had it, but you know, people weren’t using it. It wasn’t open for everybody. It was, you know, version two or one. And it exploded and I just saw Yesterday, I think Canva presented that, you know, Canva is magic. Now you can do everything that you want where I could just type in something and then Canva will produce something for you, which is amazing at the same time.
But in, in some cases, not exactly what you needed and in, in the most discussions that we have with our creatives, we see that some are you know, loving it and then see the opportunities of how they can use it in their work. And others are a little bit afraid of you know, what is the value of what I’m creating?
If anybody can, you know, just type in something. And then they have something that’s similar to where I’m working for weeks to create the quality and what they want. So for in, in our case is we will really want to understand what is the value of the technology. And yesterday I was listening to a presentation of Stefan Sagmeister, his Austrian Graphic designer living in the U S he did all the album covers for big bands in the U S and all over the world.
And he said something very interesting which you know, I resonate with it. At some point, the creations that are coming with AI start to look very similar, um, and it’s easier to recognize that it was created with an AI. And people, you know, at the beginning are fascinated, but then start getting bored because there is somehow…something missing. And he was comparing it with Photoshop. So he started graphic design in the eighties. So he went to all the technologies that came and said, when I was Photoshop came out, everybody’s like, wow, this is amazing. And now it is. And then after a few months, everybody had the same effects, the same designs, the same type of layout.
Which were based also on the limitations on what Photoshop could at that time. So I think it’s how our approach is like, how can we build tools that are using AI to help our artists tell the story that they want to tell? And I think a great example is, you know, how this tool which was called to remove background.
I think it’s still out there came out and you just had to put an image in and say, remove background. And with AI, they could identify what the background was. And it was removed in in minutes. It’s a work that nobody loves. And the eyes does it in five seconds instead of, you know, minutes or half an hour.
Yeah. If you do it by hand, so I think our approach in this way is like, how can we. You know, find tools to help the creatives create the digital content that they want to tell the story that they want to, without necessarily you know, to emphasize AI is like to just use AI because it’s out there and everybody’s talking about it.
But maybe there is. It’s another technology that makes sense. So for example, we have now launched two new features. One is where we have particle systems, something that it’s out there for for many years.
[00:24:03] Helen Todd:And for those who don’t know, particle systems, can you tell us what they are?
Cause I don’t know what they are, so I’m assuming some of my listeners won’t know either.. Haha.
[00:24:12] Sergiu Ardelean: Sorry, I’m so deep in it. And it’s very interesting because when we launched it, we internally we were talking about particle systems, but we changed the name into effects. So what you can imagine is like, you can create how should I describe it?
The best like a point cloud, like points that can be have different shapes and behave in different ways. Sounds very technical, but it’s extremely easy. So for example, you can create fire rain clouds you know, a smoke, whatever you feel, you know, that it has very many small items. And then you can just create it in a few clicks.
So we added this a few weeks ago, and we see how much it adds, you know, to, to some of the artists that they just want to add a little bit of a backstory or a little bit of a feeling to the artwork. And it’s enough if you just put a little bit of rain and then you have a total different feeling to the content that you’re looking at.
So yes that’s not necessarily something that it’s built with AI but maybe in the next version, we’ll have something that it, it has some AI elements to make it a little bit faster or to go in a different direction that will help the artists to create different content. We also added another feature I think last week with 3D audio, so you can, you know, position all your elements.
And if you’re going closer, you start hearing it. If you’re going a little bit farther away it’s you know, out of your hearing spectrum. So I think the same approach, like with these features we will have with AI to see, okay, what’s out there. How can we. Add value, also based on the feedback that we get from the community in helping, Telling the story because at the end, you know, it’s nobody really cares if it’s augmented reality, if it was done with AI or not, they’re catched by the story by the approach.
And I think this is something that it’s more sustainable. And this is what we learned during the last six years. Because it’s at the beginning when we started with the first projects, we had a lot of 3d Objects, you know, connected to artworks in the room, and we saw that many people going to the gallery or museum were struggling to understand what’s happening like this is interesting.
It’s like a 3D thing, but I don’t understand the story. I don’t understand what it’s trying to tell me. But when we started using, you know, formats that they already knew audio video gifts, they were much more interested in exploring Experiencing the technology because they weren’t caring about the technology.
They tried to understand the story behind it. Yeah.
[00:26:58] Helen Todd: I love that. I think the anytime that the technology is front and center, it actually takes away. Like it’s the magic of the experience that you shouldn’t even feel the technology to understand it. And I love what you said about adding value and not being gimmicky either.
Cause there’s so many gimmicky things like here in Cincinnati where I’m headquartered, I think there was a bar with like an AI.. I don’t know, monkey machine or something, but it was just like, totally gimmick pounce on the trend. But you did mention that some art museums are using Artivive to bring the artworks alive.
So I’d love to hear some of those use cases and how museums are using this and the. The reaction from those who are interacting with what the art pieces.
[00:27:43] Sergiu Ardelean: So we have different projects and approaches. We tried to help our community and the artists to get in touch with these institutions and, you know, work together because also for the museums.
is important to activate the local community. And the easiest way is to work with living artists from the community because they also understand a little bit better, you know, the holistic representation of the museum with the collection that they have, and also with the people that are coming to the museum.
But I have a few examples. So for example, we did project with the Belvedere Museum in Vienna. I don’t know if you had the chance to visit it before you left Vienna. But they have an amazing collection from Egon Schiele and interesting enough, there are some paintings that have unbelievable story behind it, which everybody who works at the museum knows the story, but it’s very hard to tell the story to somebody who was maybe coming in the first time to Vienna and to the museum.
So I have or we have an example from a painting that Schiele had to overpaint because. When he presented the first version of it to the director of the museum at the time, the director said unfortunately, the lady who’s depicted in the painting is dressed too poorly to match the collection that he had.
And the lady in the painting was actually Schiele’s wife. So and she was dressed poorly because they were poor. So, what he did was went back to his studio and overpainted the painting with a different dress. So it matched more the vision that the museum’s director had at that time to be able to sell the artwork.
And now we have this artwork in the museum with you know, the vision or the final version that wasn’t as intended by the artists and what we managed to do was through the research that the museum did and the colleagues there, we were able together with them to recreate the first version and how it looked like.
And we were able to use augmented reality to show The first version on the original so that you know, people can see the difference and also understand the story at the same time. And funny enough, if you’re looking very close to the painting that we have today with the backstory and also knowing how the dress looked before, you can see some of the details beneath the version that you have today.
And I think this is. It’s the most valuable experience that people would take with them because only this story is telling so much about the artist, the time that he lived in, about the museum, the building that they are in, how old it is, that the director of that gallery was able to buy from the living artists that you know, died 100 years ago.
And also to recognize on the original, the first version of the painting and understand how this painting come to be what it is. And this is like an experience that’s very hard. you know, also to, to talk about it if you don’t have the images. And this was a problem also for you know, the tour guys that were in the museum to explain the to the visitors and also for the artists or historians.
So we managed to the technology to tell this story in 30 seconds and catch the tension and also give. People that are in the museum, also something that they can take with them because you know, the visit to the museum becomes then an experience. And from the feedback that we received from most people visiting the museum, and I was very surprised to see that there were also people that weren’t so tech savvy, um, or maybe also a bit older, they were fascinated and saying, this is amazing.
I didn’t know. And if you really look close, so you can see that the. The bits of the original color, which is beneath. And I think this is again what we talked about before creating something that it’s sustainable and it’s not about the technology.
[00:31:48] Helen Todd: That’s so cool. Well, next time I go to Vienna, I’ll definitely have to go.
And it, I love the immersive storytelling part. Cause I mean, this is. Just what I get excited about, like new forms of expression and storytelling and kind of how you were describing that. I was thinking like, you know, sometimes at museums, I’ll go to like Wikipedia pages and get like the backstory and you go down these rabbit holes, but you’re bringing it all together in one 32nd immersive storytelling clip.
In a compelling way. So I think that’s just so neat and fascinating. In addition to the museum case study, I’d love to hear maybe some stories about independent artists and how they’re using the platform too, because you make it really easy for any artists to be. You’re almost like the Canva of AI of AR for bringing artworks alive.
Cause it’s so easy to use. So I’d love to hear some stories or use cases from independent artists as well.
[00:32:43] Sergiu Ardelean: Yes. It’s hard also, you know, to know what everybody’s doing. I’m trying to get into, you know, the in touch with so many artists as possible because we have this amazing community.
But I think I have a great example. So two examples that moved me personally were on one hand, the traditional artists who’s doing a landscape. So his painting landscapes and he’s doing very well and sells wonderfully in the UK. And I had a call with him and he told me, it’s like, I’m so happy that I found you because I am putting so much passion and I have so much joy creating these paintings and when I’m done with the painting, I’m not really interested in it anymore. And I see people that are buying this result and putting it on the wall without knowing how much joy I had. So he came with Idea, I think he’s like 80, so he’s using the computer for emails and for audio , funny enough.
So he came with idea. He had like an older digital camera, just put it on a tripod to create the time lapse and said, I just let it run. So people can see from the first. stroke to the last one you know, how the colors came and how much time I put into details and you know, how, you know, I’m satisfied with the process and when the artwork is finished and people can see this.
So I can show them for every artwork that they’re buying, how it was made and how much work it is inside and how much joy I had with it. And that made him happier, you know, to tell the story in a way which people also can understand. And also that they can rewatch it and they can also share it with other people.
So when somebody is coming and visiting and seeing the artwork, they can also share the experience on how the artwork was made. And I think it’s like, you know, this. It’s so touching because it is so true because if you’re seeing an artwork, you just see the end result and you don’t see the process.
And sometimes the process is so interesting and it takes so much time into artists putting into the detail and you have a total different relationship with the artists and with the artwork. See how it was made. And you can maybe see some details that maybe are hidden if you wouldn’t see the whole process.
[00:35:03] Helen Todd: It goes back to the story and knowing, and this is one reason why I love getting to interview the artists is getting into the process, the creative process and the mind that went into the art. And you totally have a different appreciation for art. If, I mean, you can appreciate art. at face value, but I know I get so much more out of it with the context and understanding the artist story.
So I love that you bring this alive in such a rich, immersive way.
[00:35:31] Sergiu Ardelean: that’s a very valid point because for visual arts you know, on one part is the visual aspect. It’s obviously but you’re deciding on buying a network because of the story, because of the artists, because of what it’s representing.
And it’s much easier to tell this story if you have a digital extension or you can connect it to a digital you know storytelling tool, I would say, because then you can, you know relate much easier and then it’s becoming emotional and then it’s not just an artwork. But it’s a story. It’s an experience.
And because I was saying at the beginning that I want to highlight two stories. The second one was from the other side. So digital artists who has a lot of success with NFTs and also selling his digital art had the first real, or like, you know in a gallery exhibition without screens with arts about was a part of a group exhibition.
And we launched it in Vietnam and we had amazing feedback. And at the end obviously people could also buy the NFTs and also get the print so that they have the whole experience again. So they could, you know, hang the NFT at home and through the phone bring it to live. So they didn’t have to invest a lot on screens or having screens that are running the whole time.
And at the end we still had some artworks and the artist came to me and said is it okay if I take one of my artworks home? Because I want to show my parents what I’m doing. So he was already successful and you know, living out of the work that he’s doing. But he wanted to take something that he can hold in his hands and go proudly home to show to his parents.
What he’s actually creating. So you know, there are the whole stories with NFTs that will not get into it, but still having something in hand, some having something that you can, you know, put on the wall, something that it’s there and you can see it also without electricity has a different meaning for us.
[00:37:32] Helen Todd: I love that. And I’ve been in digital media for over 14 years. And it is funny of like, what do I produce it? It’s all in pixels. And you’re seeing that the haptic of this is what I’ve done with my career. So I love that you’re kind of bringing digital artists back into tactile artwork as well.
Well, and I guess just You mentioned NFTs which, yeah we’ll save that for another episode. And one thing that I would love to hear from you just because you are so much at the cutting edge of where art and AR currently is and, you know, immersive storytelling and extended reality.
I’m really curious just from The seat that you’re sitting at where do you see what’s next? You mentioned for your products you know, goggles, I’m super curious what the Apple vision pro will do to kickstart back the conversations about extended reality and maybe revive some of the metaverse hype without, you know, using the words metaverse.
But what’s next? Like, I feel like you’re in such an interesting seat to sit to kind of, and you’ve been on. So many trends from flash websites to CDs and now AR where is art and technology going next?
[00:38:47] Sergiu Ardelean: I think art is always a mirror of the society, so it will always use what’s close to us.
And then also part of the culture and we see that the technology is moving very fast. And I think what Apple is doing right is they’re not talking so much about the technology and trying to give it. You know, names, um, because people still have a hard time to understand, you know, the whole digital space and, you know, what’s digital, what’s real.
And I think another good example is on you know, how complex Google Maps works on the phone. So you want to get from A to B and Google Maps will help you to, you know, find the best way of if it’s, you know, with a car or with a bike. Or public transportation, and you also got your fastest there.
From the moment that you want, you know, you put in the address and to the moment that you arrive there, you don’t think about the technology or technologies that were used. You just want, you know, to get there. And maybe when you got there, you also forgot that you use. Google Maps. So I think this is how we should and will interact with technology in the future.
People will not really care if it’s something that they put on their face or if it’s just the smartphone, right? They will go for the experience. And what I like about Apple is they showed cases where it makes a lot of sense. Right. So if you’re at home and want to watch a movie alone, and this is a very important part because for this headsets is something that you they’re meant to be experienced alone.
You can, you know, make your TV bigger, or maybe you don’t need the. TV screen at home anymore. If you have the glasses if you want to work on our airplane and you don’t want anybody to see into your laptop and you don’t also have the space for it, you can use the goggles again. If you’re working from the office and you need more screens because you have a lot of ideas and pinwalls and everything is digital, you can use the glasses again.
And I think that’s. That’s the most important part because people will not care that they’re using the glasses. They will just, you know, use it because it’s private because it’s, you know, saving space and they don’t have to take the laptop with them or they can use it in for a working environment that they’re getting a little bit you know Better and faster to the result that they were searching for.
So I think this is where we will go based on the hardware and software that will be developed. And I think it’s also very important that, you know, for the companies and for the projects, coming out there, they’re focusing on the value that they’re creating and not on the resolution and the number of sensors and how light or heavy it is, but just on how will it make our life better?
And at the same time, when we have these gadgets, art will adapt. Coming back to the idea that, you know, it’s a mirror of our society at the same time it will, um, talk about, you know, the problems, the good and the bad things in our life. And then the creatives will use these tools as well. So, I’m curious myself to see where the road goes.
I think with the glasses from the Google glasses, 2000. 14, 13, 14. We here is like next year, but next year we’ll be there next year. Everybody will use it. And this is for 10 years now. And I think that’s the biggest problem because we didn’t really find the value where glasses will change totally.
The way how we interact with content compared to the smartphone or to the laptop or to the different devices. that we have.
[00:42:36] Helen Todd: Yeah. I find it so fascinating. If you look back at the rocket growth of Facebook, like what actually was the biggest thing that catapulted Facebook was the ability to tag your friends and photos and making photos a social experience.
Like that was the big thing and such a simple idea. And then fast forward to chatGPT. It’s natural language and just the ease and use of interacting with it with natural language. And, you know, they’re both free and not, you know, huge expense and the accessibility of it. So I’ll really be interested in the accessibility of these, of the hardware and the devices.
And like, what’s that simple thing that they tap into. Cause I think the more. Simple, the better the adoption is of the tech and as well. Exactly.
[00:43:26] Sergiu Ardelean: That’s very important. So people shouldn’t, again, think about the technology. Also with chatGPT, they’re not thinking, you know, that they are, you know talking to an AI.
They just want an answer and it’s easier than maybe Googling it. And the same thing is with Facebook, they just wanted to show where they are and how cool they are and how. You know, they’re all friends together with the tagging and with the lighting. And that’s, you know, human behavior. And they weren’t really thinking about how much data sharing where the pictures are going they just wanted to have the value and experience.
[00:44:00] Helen Todd: And I will say with Google Maps, I don’t know if it’s rolled out everywhere but for as much as I travel, I, my sense of direction is absolutely horrible and I’ll go in, friends joke when I travel, like any direction I want to go, we go the exact opposite and that will be the right one but with Google Maps, if you have, if you’re walking on the street and put up the phone it will literally instead of the blue dot, which I still can get lost with the blue dot telling you where to go, it will literally, if you put the phone up to your face and point the camera using maps, it will have arrows of like, walk this way.
And I was like, this is what I’ve been waiting for and it’s the utility of it. And the ease of use also is such like a great onboarding tool. At least for Google Maps and AR. So if you haven’t tried that yet.
[00:44:47] Sergiu Ardelean: I encourage you to. I tried them. It’s amazing because it shows you the direction, right?
And you can also see in which direction something is positioned or you have to walk. And again, it’s like people don’t care that it’s here. It’s like the camera just helps you to see where you’re at and which direction you should go.
[00:45:07] Helen Todd: If it keeps me in the right direction, it can keep anyone in the right direction.
Well, before we sign off you have a couple upcoming events that you’ll be at in your own virtual conference. So tell us about some of the things that you have in the pipeline.
[00:45:26] Sergiu Ardelean: My pleasure. So we first will be now in October, the EWE, which is the Augmented World Expo for the first time in Vienna.
It’s like a fair and conference that is around 15 years, if not longer. And we’re more than happy that it’s in our hometown. We also have a playground there. I will also have a keynote. So whoever is in town and will join ping me, I’m more than happy to drink a coffee and see you there.
And we also have a hybrid, more online summit coming beginning of November on the 7th, 8th and 9th where we’ll talk about augmented reality art from all sides. On how to make money, how to tell stories with it. We have people from Disney joining. We have people that are Emmy award winners.
We have people from Harvard. So join us. It will be an amazing three day full of talks, panels inspiration, and also great way to network.
[00:46:23] Helen Todd: Fantastic. And I’ll be sure to put all the links to all of this again in the dedicated episode blog post. If you want our viewers and listeners to remember one thing from today’s conversation what would you like that one thing to be?
[00:46:36] Sergiu Ardelean: I would maybe ask a question. And this is a question that we are somewhat trying to answer, or we think that we have to answer, but still is. Every century has its own art form. And last century we had photography and film, the first century where technology started to become an art form.
And my question is what will be the art form of the 21st century?
[00:46:58] Helen Todd: I love that question. I feel like that could actually catapult a whole nother episode to dive into that, but I know we’re a little bit at time. So Sergio, it has been. So wonderful to have you on the show and we’ll definitely bring you back so that we can dive more into that.
Cause you’ve got me all excited and we have to sign off.
[00:47:19] Sergiu Ardelean: Helen, thank you so much. It was so much fun. I don’t know how the time flew so fast. I hope yeah. That it was for everybody enjoyable and looking forward to the next episode.
[00:47:31] Helen Todd: Thank you for spending some time with us today. We’re just getting started and would love your support.
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