‘First of its kind’ augmented reality art trail launches in Sheffield

7th February 2023

A new augmented reality (AR) art trail in Sheffield that features moving visual and audio artwork on city centre rooftops has been billed as the first of its kind in the UK and possibly the world.

  • Digital works by local artists can be seen on the rooftops of iconic city centre buildings
  • The pioneering ‘Look Up’ project is funded by the government’s ‘Build Back Better’ fund
  • Pokémon Go developer Niantic is also involved in the project
  • People are encouraged to interact with the project and share their experiences by using #LookUpSheff and tagging @VisitSheffield

The Look Up project is conceived and produced by the Marketing Sheffield team, who are part of Sheffield City Council. It showcases digital works created by Sheffield-based artists and businesses, and is being supported by San Francisco based AR royalty, Niantic Labs, who developed the ground-breaking Pokémon Go mobile game.

Using a free app, people will be guided to four central locations – Sheffield Hallam University’s Owen Building, the Central Library and Graves Gallery in Tudor Square, the old John Lewis building in Barkers Pool, and the University of Sheffield’s Diamond building – where QR codes on the floor can be scanned on a smartphone within the app to reveal the portal and artwork.

The AR art will then appear on the user’s screen ‘layered’ over the real world, and will be ‘anchored’ to the rooftop using new technology. This allows people to look and listen to the unique, moving and animated displays and share their experiences by taking photos and videos.

Marketing Sheffield has worked with local companies who have specialist skills with global repute in their field. Megaverse have built the app and platform; Universal Everything & Human Studio have created the artworks, and Jaywing have kindly provided marketing support.

The project has been funded by the government’s ‘Build Back Better’ initiative that aims to promote economic recovery and levelling up around the country. It is hoped that Look Up will encourage visitors to the city centre and people to join the city’s thriving creative and tech sectors, while enhancing Sheffield’s reputation to a global audience (which is seeing significant interest at the moment after being listed as the second best city in Europe for a city break by TimeOut).

Mark Mobbs, place brand and marketing manager for city campaigns at Marketing Sheffield, said: “Ultimately what this project has created is a platform for the city of Sheffield. As far as we are aware, no city has used augmented reality in this way before, turning their centre and buildings into a permanent and free, fun art trail.

“We want the trail to grow over time – it would be incredible if Sheffield became known around the globe as the only major city to have an AR art gallery as part and parcel of the city itself. Not only does this promote cultural values, but health and wellbeing too – the trail is designed to be accessed on foot and all locations will be outdoors, meaning our moniker of The Outdoor City, where nature meets culture, can truly come to life.”

“We are already in conversation with several partners about additional pieces that can be added throughout 2023, and more information will be released as soon as possible if they come to fruition.”

Look Up is available to download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The easiest way to get it is by visiting the Look Up landing page, where more information can be found about the project and businesses involved, as well as recommendations for visitors to the city on what else to do in the vicinity – including top tips for food, drink, shopping and other cultural activities nearby.

People are encouraged to interact with the project and share their experiences by using #LookUpSheff and tagging @VisitSheffield.

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