Augmented reality headsets for emplaced storytelling

Through the Wardrobe invites visitors to explore gender identity in a room-scale installation using a HoloLens AR headset

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In the third year of my PhD and currently writing up my thesis, I present in my poster highlights of findings from my practice-as-research. Most of my design suggestions derive from my main PhD project ‘Through the Wardrobe’, a room-scale AR documentary installation presented at festivals and galleries 2019-20. I also provide insights from my recent R&D at National Dance Company Wales using the HoloLens in contemporary dance. The methods in my practice-as-research are drawn not from human-computer interaction (HCI) but from fine art, ethnography, immersive theatre and documentary studies. These influences have led me to focus on the creation of content and the experience of the audience (whom I call ‘immersants’) and less on the programming and technology. This poster is pitched more at industry and arts practitioners than at fellow academics.

With AR glasses on the horizon from Apple, Facebook and other major tech companies, artists and producers of theatre and story experiences will be looking for ways of harnessing these new devices. But, while some of the tech will be marketed as ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘pioneering’, there are lessons that creators can learn from recent AR headsets (such as HoloLens and Magic Leap) and other forms of immersive media and storytelling. The importance in embracing these new AR glasses and headsets is not the technology, although creators will need some time to explore new affordances. Rather, storytellers and content producers need to take stock of what we already understand from AR experiences and how the medium opens up worlds of possibilities to create multisensory experiences that are not just embodied but also factor in the importance of location and objects – what I term here ’emplaced AR storytelling’.

Rob Eagle


Rob Eagle is a practice-based PhD researcher at UWE Bristol, funded by the AHRC through the 3D3 Centre for Doctoral Training. His research in immersive media and interactive documentary is informed by anthropology, phenomenology and gender studies. His main PhD project, Through the Wardrobe, an augmented reality installation, has been exhibited at film festivals and galleries 2019-20, including Sheffield Doc/Fest (nominated for the Best Digital Storytelling Award), HOME Manchester, International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (nominated for the Best Digital Experience Award), the Barbican Centre in London and Goethe-Institut China in Beijing.

Rob’s wider artistic practice includes work across audio, film and interactive digital art installations. He has recently been collaborating with National Dance Company Wales on the project Moving Layers, blending AR and contemporary dance. He is currently writing up his thesis and has two forthcoming peer-reviewed articles due out late 2020/early 2021.