In September 2014 Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission launched Broadway Augmented, an augmented reality virtual public art project, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. Located in the Broadway district of Sacramento, California, it represents an innovative blend of new media art, augmented reality, mobile technology, and public art. Eleven artists from all over the US created seventeen virtual installations over fifteen city blocks in the old city neighborhood of Broadway, Sacramento.

The custom app was built by Geoffrey Alan Rhodes using the Unity game engine and Vufora augmented reality platform. Viewers downloaded the free app, and using the provided maps and street decals, took a self-guided walking tour of the street, which took about 1.5 hours. The app used facial recognition technology to track chosen street features. By pointing their mobile device’s camera at a designated feature in one of the street locations, viewers could interact with the virtually installed artworks in real time through the screen of their device. The interaction involved walking around the works to fully experience their dimensionality and relationship to the location.

Broadway Augmented brought experimental new media practice into the public art realm, creating a meaningful, accessible interactive art experience to the general public through mobile technology. Ultimately the project only existed when people engaged with the works by viewing them through their personal mobile devices while walking along the street. Each person chose their own route, and captured the experience as a unique set of customized screenshots. They shared their experiences with other visitors on the street, as well as through social media.

Augmented reality can facilitate an emotive and newly flexible form of public art that is deployed, distributed, experienced, and documented over mobile devices.

Video created by Bryan Maretti

Comics, 2014, Rachel Clarke, animated augmented reality artwork at the Comic Store on Broadway, Sacramento

Comics: Walking into the comic store on Broadway I stepped into a vibrant world of comic book teen sub-culture; a culture where American brands like Marvel and DC continue to thrive. This animated window piece riffs on comic book imagery and pop culture references, with elements "popping out" of a comic book page. In the center is the face of a female character that is staring open-mouthed at the viewer. Mikko Lautamo wrote about the piece in Square Cylinder magazine: "Clarke seems to be commenting both on the depiction of women in comics and on the growing presence of female fans in the stereotypically male-only subculture. "

Tower, 2014, Rachel Clarke, animated augmented reality installation at Dimple Records on Broadway, Sacramento

Tower: Tower is a virtual assemblage of music media memorabilia from a recently bygone age. It’s a tribute to the Tower Records Company, founded in 1960 by Sacramento native, Russell Solomon. He opened the store on Broadway and 16th in 1976. Tower Records grew into an international corporation dominating the industry through the 80s and 90s. As a teenager growing up in the UK, I regularly shopped at Tower Recording in Birmingham, England. The demise of the company occurred as vinyl records, cassettes, then CDs were made obsolete by the Internet and digitized media, and Tower Records closed in 2006. In this whimsical piece, the flower forms spit out records, casette and CDs as they revolve on a turntable, reminding us of our recent media culture, experienced through the emerging media of Augmented Reality.

A street tour of Broadway Augmented, fall 2014

For more information about the project, go to

Broadway Augmented app, 2014, developed by Alan Rhodes and designed by Alli Gerriets