Future Meadows: interactive seagrass artwork
09 February 2022 / By Chloe Georgakis
Since July 2021 we have been developing an immersive artwork that celebrates seagrass using sculpture, light, and augmented reality (AR). Audiences can explore and interact through AR to learn about this aquatic plant’s wonders and benefits. It aims to expand our understanding and appreciation of seagrass to support its restoration and preservation in Plymouth and beyond.
The project came about through spending time surveying boats at Cawsands for ReMEDIES as part of research into new environmentally-friendly moorings. Having never heard about seagrasses before, we were amazed to learn about the significance of these underwater plants and wanted to use our creativity to explore them further. Out of this came a new collaboration between myself, Chloe Georgakis, and my partner Will Harvey – DesignerMaker, Digital Artist and Graphic Designer. We brought our skills in physical and digital design together in a new way under the name Future Meadows.
Augmented reality is a technology which superimposes computer generated images over the user’s real-world view via a device’s camera. We chose AR because seagrass meadows are ‘hidden habitats’ for many of us, but through AR we can take the audience on an underwater journey of discovery. We tried to bring this environment to life in a playful manner, in surprising locations! Our meadow is an exaggerated and colourful space with animations of sea creatures, blue carbon capturing and flickering sunlight. It responds to interaction: as you plant seeds the meadow grows around you. It includes information bubbles that describe seagrass’s relationship to carbon capturing, coastal stabilisation, water filtering and supporting biodiversity and fish stocks.
Evaluations showed that the audience came away with an enhanced awareness of the ecosystem services and natural capital of seagrass meadows. Perhaps this was due to the interactivity and presentation of information in a novel format, both of which support memory recall and emotional engagement.
Natural England funded our project, seeing the potential for this emerging technology as an innovative tool for communication around the natural world. This project has allowed us to experiment and test new ways of storytelling, and to connect with different audiences. We’ve been presenting the artwork around Plymouth at a wide range of events including Sail GP, Plymouth’s Tech Start-Up weekend and Illuminate festival. The response has been incredibly positive, and young people are particularly engaged. Audiences have praised the fun, game-like format and the novel approach to marine education.
We’re looking to evolve the artwork further and explore audio, accessibility, and geo-located experiences. We also have two new commissions through Plymouth City Council. One is an educational 3D puzzle game (left) to help children understand and appreciate the values of seagrass through fun and creative play. The second is a technical model to demonstrate a traditional boat mooring system, alongside an Advanced Mooring System (AMS) designed to interact less with the seabed. ReMEDIES will be using these interactive objects to help promote awareness of these habitats and their importance. Look out for them at events soon.
Future Meadows is part of a series of investigations that use art, design and immersive technology to tell interactive stories about eco-systems. It is a collaboration between 3D DesignerMaker ChloeGeorgakis and Graphic Artist and Designer @WillHarvey. We made the installation through the support of the i-mayflower “Smart Citizens Program”, which gave us access to the FabLab at Plymouth College of Art. Our venture into AR was inspired by the recent opening of Market Hall in Devonport, home to the largest immersive dome in Europe. RealIdeas, the organisation behind the development, supported us through the “Start Something Immersive Program”. Stay connected @futuremeadows | #Futuremeadows