Olafur Eliasson’s AR Earth Speakr app lets children voice concerns about the climate
Artist Olafur Eliasson has developed an augmented reality app that allows children to digitally transplant their faces onto their environment to help give them a voice in discussions about the climate crisis.
The app is part of a collective artwork, alongside a dedicated website, which gives a platform to those who are too young to be involved in the official political process but who will bear the consequences of any decisions that are made today.
“Earth Speakr invites kids to speak up for the planet and adults to listen to what they have to say.”
Earth Speakr lets kids design a three-dimensional, CGI face, which mirrors their expressions and movements.
They can then record a message and superimpose this face on their surroundings, whether on a plastic bottle or a flower, to create the impression that the object is talking.
Meanwhile, adults are encouraged to amplify their favourite messages and share them with others by collating them into so-called Loud Speakrs.
These essential function as AR playlists, which can be placed next to prominent locations on the project’s virtual map and accessed at that location in real life using the app.
“Life on earth is a coexistence of people, animals, plants and ecosystems. We must acknowledge this coexistence and then take the right actions to nurture it,” said Eliasson.
“In today’s debates over climate policy, it is crucial that the voices of the next generation are heard loud and clear, since it is they who will live in the future that we are currently shaping. We – adults, decision-makers and politicians – need to hear the kids’ creative messages and take them seriously.”
The artwork was created to celebrate Germany’s presidency of the Council of the European Union this year and is available in the 24 official languages of the EU.
To ensure the children’s messages are actually heard, a selection of them will be streamed at the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg as well as at the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin.
Earth Speakr marks the second time this year that Eliasson has worked with augmented reality, after making his first foray into the technology with a cabinet of curiosities app that allows users to virtually interact with rare rocks and animals.
However, the topic of climate change is far from new for the artist, who has used the majority of his almost thirty-year career to raise awareness of it.
In the past, he has transported 30 blocks of Greenland’s glacial ice to public spaces in London, inviting passersby to watch them melt before their eyes, as well as creating his series of Little Sun solar lamps for people living off of the electricity grid.
“There are actually about 1.2 billion people in the world today without access to energy who use petroleum, kerosene, paraffin and candles,” Eliasson explained in an exclusive interview with Dezeen last year.
“We have now delivered 830,000 lamps and we’re going to push for a million this summer. That’s a lot of money not going into petroleum.
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