ON THESE SUMMER days, tech-loving millennials who work in the Manchester Millyard often turn to the Arms Park(ing lot), to take a break from creating the next world-saving invention.
They sit on a bench, walk above the Merrimack River or lounge on the tiny lawn. They nibble on their DoorDash delivered sandwich. The rush of this summer’s rain-swollen river provides relaxing white noise.
And from now until October, they can use their iPhone to convert their outdoor getaway into an art gallery.
Download an app, move to the right spot, line up your phone’s camera, and the work of New Hampshire artists appears on the screen, implanted in the camera’s image of the Arms lot on the phone screen.
A brightly hued, giant mushroom forest takes over an empty spot of lawn.
A table-sized, sun-blanched disc hovers over the Mill West complex across the river.
A monstrous spider with a purple abdomen guards the archway over the river stairs.
The artworks are featured in “Hidden in Plain Sight,” a high-tech event labeled an “augmented reality art walk.”
The exhibit transplants the artworks from galleries to a peaceful riverside setting and the iPhones and iPads of people.
Of course, users can then post images or video of the art to their social media accounts.
“I can take my piece and put it anywhere. I can make it as big as I want or smaller,” said fiber artist Laura Morrison or Concord.
Her piece “Small Soldiers” is a vibrantly colored, wool-and-bead creation of soft-looking spires that are inspired by British soldier lichen.
In reality, the soft sculpture stands about a half-foot tall, with the spires anchored on a soft, wool bed. But in augmented reality, they appear about 5 feet tall on an Arms Park lawn.
Morrison said she could never create a piece so large out of fabric.
The exhibit runs through Oct. 15.
“It adds a layer of cultural density to the park,” said Karina Mitchell, vice president of Membit Inc., a tech firm that specializes in augmented reality. Membit has tailored the app for the exhibits in Manchester and three other New Hampshire locations — Lebanon, Whitefield and Portsmouth.
The Manchester firm has partnered with the much larger company, The Related Companies, and has showcased augmented reality art in New York, Los Angeles, Kansas and Venice.
The hottest thing right now in the field is augmented reality filters, Mitchell said.
In selfie-like fashion, users of augmented reality change their face and their background either for kicks or marketing reasons. An augmented reality art walk turns the focus away from the self.
“We’re turning the camera outward, to the world around us,” Mitchell said.
It isn’t virtual reality, which involves a user donning goggles and entering a completely fictional world of video gaming. Enhanced reality just adds to what is already here, Mitchell said.
Sorry Android users; at this point, the artwork is only available on Apple devices.
Presently, technology exists to zap augmented reality anywhere with your cell phone. But “Hidden in Plain Sight” is curated — a specific piece of art is placed in a specific location.
“It’s about creating an experience to bring people together and experience the art,” said Tricia Soule, executive director of the New Hampshire Business Committee for the Arts, which produced the art walk along with Membit. Soule curated the exhibit.
The artists received a stipend for participating in the project, Soule said.
Users also get a link to the artist’s website when they download a piece. Morrison applauds the exhibit for bringing art to the people.