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Bruce Sterling Becomes a Layar Developer, Creates Dead Drops Layer

Adriane Goetz August 24, 2011

Layar’s favorite science fiction author and “Guardian Seer of Augmented Reality” Bruce Sterling has just crossed over into the Layar developer realm.

As “Visionary in Residence” at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, Bruce felt the best way to inspire his students to create immersive AR experiences was to create one himself because, as he said, “Sometimes it’s easiest to teach by doing.”

Obviously an Augmented Reality visionary like Bruce Sterling wasn’t going to make a layer to find ATMs or restaurants, but little did we know his finished project would augment an underground, offline media network perfectly aligned with the tenets of AR!

Last week Bruce revealed the Dead Drops layer to the world through his blog, which enabled a new wave of discovery for Berlin-based media artist Aram Bartholl‘s Dead Drops project.

Dead drops are USB flash drives embedded into walls, buildings and curbs that are accessible to everyone and located in public space. Anyone can add to and take from a dead drop, or create their own and add its location to the website. The result of this project is an anonymous, offline peer-to-peer file sharing network.

The Dead Drops concept of revealing hidden data in three-dimensional spaces in the physical world is exactly what Augmented Reality does, so the Layar platform is the most fitting online expression of Bartholl’s project we can imagine! 

The Dead Drops layer locates nearby DDs, providing extra information about the distance and direction of the nearest spot. Because Dead Drops are meant to blend in with their surroundings (and thus, are easy to miss if you’re not looking for them) the layer is as useful as it is cool to look at!

Even if there aren’t any Dead Drops in your vicinity, you still see a floating image of Bruce in a James Dean-ish pose staring cooly into the horizon, so it’s kind of a win-win.

If you do come across one (especially in the Los Angeles area) you may find a Bruce Sterling connection somewhere in the data; he’s also writing a new work of augmented fiction specifically created for Dead Drops, so there are many more hidden “Sterling-isms” to come.

The Dead Drops layer is a creative collaboration between Bruce Sterling, freelance Layar developer Menno Bieringa, media artist Aram Bartholl and Layar artist-in-residence Sander Veenhof.

Want to create your own Dead Drop? Watch this helpful “How-to” video and Dead Drop it like it’s hot!

Once you get the process down, you can really get creative!

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