The Unreal Garden

A Virtual Stroll through San Francisco’s Unreal Garden

What happens when technology and creativity cross paths? Lots of interesting things. And one right in San Francisco.

The Unreal Garden is an immersive, 3D Augmented Reality extravaganza that brings art to life. At first glance, you only see a rather pallid-looking physical representation of a garden with trees, plants and a gazebo on a bridge over a pond. The garden, however, comes to life when you put on the Microsoft HoloLens AR headset with its dark shaded glasses. All of a sudden you see digital gardens superimposed on the physical structures. These brilliantly-colored rocks, waterfalls, flowers, mushrooms and animals, created by nine digital artists, inhabit your senses and treat every movement of your head with a different perspective. Leaves sway in the virtual breeze, animals move and flowers bloom before your eyes.

Different artists create a different garden area. You activate them by pointing your finger at one of the digital boxes that pop-up as you walk to different spots. Each garden has its own theme and inhabitants. Look down at colorful digital frogs and rabbits (or virtual fish swimming in the real pond), around at the different plants or up into a digitally-illuminated night sky. Change your perspective by crouching down to see the underside of the giant mushrooms, or at the colors and floating jellyfish that inhabit an undersea coral garden.

As you finish your tour of the Unreal Garden, you can take a picture of yourself by lining your eye up with a spot on the wall (don’t ask, it is hard to explain). The picture isn’t very flattering of us, but is a good souvenir and is offered at no additional charge.

Unreal Garden 01Unreal Garden 02

The interactive, virtual environment is brought to us by OneDome, which provides a virtual showroom for artists interested in creating new garden-based worlds. The company plans to add new artists in another section of its initial San Francisco location (to be called LMNL) and to gradually open additional locations around the country.

Meanwhile, a visit to the San Francisco location will be amply rewarded. And while waiting for your 20-minute appointment, you can occupy yourself by creating your own 3D drawings or by enjoying a refreshment in the entry lounge’s juice bar.

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