Lucas Holter, Senior Photographer

On Feb. 10, the Yale Student Immersive Media Club, or YSIM, released a beta version of AREAS, an augmented reality project that allows audiences to virtually explore the Yale Schwarzman Center prior to its fall of 2021 opening. Over the course of the spring term, additional episodes will be released and made available to the public. 

AREAS is an augmented reality app for iOS and Android that allows the Schwarzman Center to exhibit student-produced and student-led art amid its newly renovated spaces in an online format.

“Our main goal was to create some way for people to still engage with the Yale art scene and generate excitement about the YSC opening, even if that couldn’t happen in person because of the pandemic,” said Xavier Ruiz ’22, a YSIM board member.

Originally, in the fall of 2019, YSIM began working with the Schwarzman Center to design an interactive installation for the center’s physical spaces. The pandemic led to a change in plans. During their quarantines, YSIM members instead worked on developing a mobile app that allows people to experience the center’s art at their fingertips.

According to Sarah Saltzman ’22, another YSIM board member, the team focused on featuring student artworks while keeping in mind the various ways in which students could interact with the Schwarzman Center, which include performances, rehearsals, demonstrations and exhibits.

Fromer YSIM co-president  Monique Baltzer ’20 said that AREAS takes users through a day at the Schwarzman Center, with depictions of scenes that could occur in different spaces in the morning, afternoon and evening.

“For example, for the first iteration of the app, the art performances take place in the dome room. In the morning, there’s a robotics presentation there; in the afternoon, a poetry reading; in the evening, a dance showing,” Baltzer said.

Besides transitioning across art scenes in multiple locations, users can also access information about the context and content of performances and artworks.

One of the team’s biggest challenges was developing the app remotely.

“None of us were on campus — or even in the same state,” Ruiz said. “So, we had to adjust from working in person together at the [Center for Collaborative Arts and Media] to using GitHub and Google Drive, as well as getting used to endless back-and-forth online communication among each other and with the YSC.”

Another challenge of operating remotely was transitioning from using high-end equipment at the CCAM — including virtual reality devices, testing rooms and a motion capture studio — to using laptops at home, Saltzman said.

Additionally, the group faced unexpected delays from navigating approval procedures for the app on Apple and Google platforms. As of now, the AREAS beta version has been approved and is being tested by an invite-only beta test group. Anyone interested can fill out a sign up form to get an invitation.

Once AREAS is submitted to the App Store and Google Play after the beta test, people can freely download the app. Users will then be able to scan image markers from posters around campus or the Schwarzman Center website to access the app’s services.

In the next few months, YSIM plans to update AREAS as required to ensure accessibility. The team will also release additional episodes of students’ artwork in numerous Schwarzman Center locations.

“We are really excited to see how we can help extend immersive reality access on Yale campus,” said Noah Shapiro ’22, a YSIM board member.

YSIM is currently also working with the Yale Peabody Museum to create an animation for the Great Hall. The club will accept new members next semester.

Tania Tsunik |