AR / Arts / VR

Balti Virtual brought augmented reality to a downtown mural — with help from Ellen

The mural at the Downtown Cultural Arts Center was unveiled on "The Build Up," an ellentube web series that chronicles Baltimore drummers Timothy Fletcher and Malik Perry.

Balti Virtual created on its biggest canvas yet. (Courtesy photo)

A Baltimore mural that’s being broadcast by the team behind “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is one of the latest local spots to mix art and tech, thanks to an augmented reality component from Port Covington-based software company Balti Virtual.

After their drumming skills caught the attention of Ellen’s team, Baltimore musicians Timothy Fletcher and Malik Perry were tapped to be featured in an ellentube web series this year. “The Build Up” chronicles the duo’s community development efforts in Baltimore, including outreach at the Downtown Cultural Arts Center at 401 N. Howard St. Joining Fletcher and Perry in the community work are HGTV’s John Colaneri and Anthony Carrino.

Balti Virtual was tapped to help out with one component of the arts center project.

“When Anthony and I embarked on our mission to pay it forward in Baltimore we wanted to do something that would impact the entire community. We always had an idea of doing a mural, but we knew it had to be a 21st century mural that stopped people in their tracks,” host Colaneri said in a statement. “We found the perfect artist by the name of Jay Coleman and then partnered with Balti Virtual to complete the project. As soon as we entered [the] Balti Virtual office they gave us a presentation of the augmented reality software, which blew us away.”

Coleman’s music-oriented mural on the side of the arts center is among the unveils on the web show, which includes a big reaction to the augmented reality feature from Balti Virtual.

The AR feature lives on beyond the show. With Balti Virtual’s app called AppAR8, anyone walking by can add drumming to the viewing experience on the spot through an interactive feature created by the agency.

Conceptualized by Balti Virtual cofounder and Creative Director David Thompson, the animated drums that appear through the app produce different sounds and colors, and users can also switch between acoustic and electronic drums. According to CEO Will Gee, Balti Virtual added a few “Easter eggs” that unlock special features. Along with paying homage to early NES codes, “we wanted to add another hidden layer of surprise and delight,” Gee said.

For Balti Virtual, the experience of working on the effort included a visit to the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank. Back in Baltimore, the 60-foot mural is a much larger piece than the temporary tattoos and children’s books already in the company’s portfolio — which means that the work was also a technical milestone for it.

“The impact of the AR really scales along with the size of the target,” Gee said. The drums, for example, appear to be the size of a person when viewed through the app.

Gee said a forthcoming plaque at the mural will provide instructions for how to access the augmented reality, and it will be available on the app for at least two years.

Companies: Balti Virtual
People: Will Gee

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