Before It’s Too Late: An Alternate Future AR App

Before It’s Too Late is “a nonprofit arts organization founded out of MIT and based in Miami, FL whose mission is to educate and inspire people to build a more sustainable world together #beforeitstoolate.” Their original app creatively addresses a problem that Miami seems unwilling to face: sea-level rise is at our doorsteps, and our decisions impact that reality.

Just across the street from the City of Miami cemetery you’ll find one of the famous murals of Wynwood. Viewing it through the app on your smartphone, with its AR, one can witness the potential impact of climate change in South Florida in our near future.

Before It’s Too Late states that the app is just one part of a larger movement that is “built by a team of local artists, technologists and entrepreneurs who are volunteering thousands of hours to the mission.” Their unifying passion appears to be utilizing their gifts of visual communication to inspire mitigation of global warming.

Art is a way to start a conversation about climate change, something that most people would rather not talk about. With the combination of art and technology, the viewer is invited into the AR art space to hopefully empathize with the beauty of nature. The mission is to bring murals to life through AR and show viewers two alternate futures that they control. From one perspective, the mural appears clean and free of pollution, with waves gently lapping at the letters that spell “Miami.” From another vantage point, the letters are framed by a dark and ominous sky. The water rises and covers the letters, toppling them one by one into the sea.

Lynda Cheung, project manager and curator of the murals, has named the project Remembering Miami. She explains that:

“Memory is very emotional. It also has a sense of time, which is really what it is. Climate change is all about time, and it’s a very abstract issue that moves slow. That’s why it’s so easy for us to ignore it. This whole idea is, if you could just think about everything from the perspective of time…We’re doing this whole storytelling series as if we’re archaeologists from the future looking back on today. If we don’t act correctly, all of this could be underwater by 2100…How would you talk about today from the lens of time? When you look at things from the lens of history and time, the important things come to the top and all the other clutter that distracts you in life fall away, because they’re forgotten…But we don’t know what the future will be. It’s not necessarily going to be negative. There is still a hopeful path.”

Reality Changing Observations:

1. What other issues could we address using AR to promote awareness and inspire action?

2. What are your favorite collaborations between art and technology?

3. Why is it important to give people hope when showing them how our environment is degrading?

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