Ostrich AR

Digital Reality Reimagined

a solo project by Trev True 2019


Create a more accessible augmented reality system that gives equal weight to object and experience.


VR: Immersion in tech news is a pillar of my art and design practice, but I usually scan a wide variety of subjects each day. I focused in on AR/VR and scoured the web for relevant material. Once I had a firm grasp on the academic side, I shifted to practical research with Jordan Wolfson’s Real Violence at the Whitney Biennial, Ryder Ripps’ Diventare Schiavo at the Venice Biennale, and a ZBrush demo at an NCECA17 panel discussion. I observed and interviewed people engaging with these systems and then tried them myself.

Jordan Wolfson's Real Violence

Ryder Ripps’ Diventare Schiavo

Key Takeaways:

1. Novelty was the primary driver behind desire to participate.

2. Heavy handed content left many participants feeling victimized.

3. Participants became unwitting performers drawing audiences.

4. Nausea, imbalance, blurred vision and unbearable disorientation were common complaints.

Next, I experimented with HTC Vive, Google Cardboard and similar devices. I learned that while the binocular lenses common to these systems allow for a rich immersive experience, they also produce nausea and other unwanted effects that limit engagement. I would have to develop something substantially different to meet the challenge and decided to begin with the physical platform, resolving questions of ergonomics, materiality, and aesthetics.

Platform: I wanted to create a system with potential for audio, kinetic, and other elements beyond the visual interface. I looked at hats, straps, headbands, and medical devices, but helmets quickly became the obvious solution. I considered motorsport, military, cycling, rafting, and mountaineering options, but they had limited sizing variability and contained materials difficult to sanitize. I settled on construction hard hats which have mechanisms that adjust to fit most head sizes, are easy to clean, affordable, and come in an array of colors and styles.

HTC Vive

Google Cardboard

HTC Vive

Solution: 1.0

O1: I developed the first generation of Ostrich AR at the University of Michigan in the winter of 2017/18. The first unit served as a test sled for iterative experimentation in modes of fastening, kinetic process, coatings, audio, video, lighting, and more. The subsequent three units explored aesthetic possibilities. While these units were not exhibited publicly, I tested extensively with the art and design communities of UMICH and Detroit. At the end of O1 I had a clear idea of how to proceed with O2.

OstrichAR v1 "OG"

OstrichAR v1 "Pyrite"

OstrichAR v1 "Pride"

OstrichAR v1 "ResistPower"

Solution: 2.0

O2: A new and more streamline visual language anchored by mirror acrylic makes O2 distinct from earlier experiments and the new video interface I call 2nViz allowed me to produce an AR/VR experience I suspected would be free from the negatives discovered early on. Prototype testing revealed O2 does in fact offer an AR/VR experience free from the limitations inherent in mass market offerings. I’m reluctant to publish exactly how I did it all, but happy to discuss it if you reach out.


OstrichAR v2.0


The project was built on spec, but after a studio visit with Tam Gryn, head curator for SHOWFIELDS, I was asked to create an OstrichAR based interactive experience for their NYC launch. I was given an 8’ by 10’ space with a two-week run as the only provisions. I responded with an installation of 15 Ostrich systems with custom display racks and a digital selfie mirror running 2nViz. The installation was so successful that it ran four months and received well over a million social media impressions.

The Studio