We live in a world that revolves greatly around technology – almost every aspect of our daily lives involves some sort of tool or mechanism that enables us to do things more efficiently and creatively. For today’s influencers, driving numbers requires thinking out of the box, whether in the content itself, or in the way the content is presented to their audience.
Of course, hard work and talent come first, but how can one elevate their craft above and beyond that of their peers? How can the experience of using prerequisite platforms like Instagram and TikTok be elevated, so that as a creator, you stand out from the incessant noise of social media?
The secret lies in the avant-garde innovation of augmented reality, or AR for short. In movies, the concept of AR is often used to depict high-tech interfaces, where, with the sweep of a hand, a scientist is able to materialise a series of glowing holograms suspended in the middle of a lab. From the visual display in Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit, the (in)famous self-destructing sunglasses from Mission Impossible 2, and what is possibly the entire Avatar movie itself, AR technology has been used to the point of cliche in Hollywood.
Yet in the context of social media, AR becomes a more realistic and everyday experience, often used to overlay visual content within your existing environment. Case in point: the filters of Instagram and Snapchat that have undoubtedly dominated your social feeds over the past several years. However, for 18-year-old ceramicist and San Diego native Dax Newman, AR plays a much bigger role in speaking to this audience. With 4.8 million followers on TikTok, Newman isn’t your run-of-the-mill California boy. His claim to fame: pottery-making videos. After getting a pottery wheel for his 17th birthday, Newman began exploring his love for ceramics, having learnt the basics during a sculpture class in high school. Soon, his hobby turned into an entrepreneurial pursuit, and today he creates, sells and distributes handmade pieces from his brand, The Pot Shed.
Alongside his business, Newman’s activities centre heavily around TikTok, where he shot to fame in part due to the pandemic, when he began to make more pieces from the chicken coop-turned-pottery shed behind his house. “I did a video right at the beginning of quarantine. It got 52 million views, and it kind of launched me into this state of having all these followers. But I’d rather not be an influencer; I’d rather be an inspirer,” he shares in a YouTube video.
Recently, in collaboration with interactive studio 1RIC, Newman released a series of holograms through the studio’s latest app, Jadu, which enables users to engage with incredibly lifelike AR versions of artists, influencers and creators. Directed by 1RIC founder and AR artist Asad J. Malik (whose work has been shown at the Sundance and Tribeca movie festivals), the holograms give users a 360-degree view of Newman in action, allowing them to connect with Newman’s artistic process like never before.
The hologram creation process is as complicated as it looks: in a green room, 106 different cameras capture Newman from all angles, and the 2D footage is then “stitched” together to form a 3D video, resulting in what Malik refers to as a “volumetric video”. It is then compressed into a size small enough to load seamlessly on a smartphone.
“[The sensation of] ASMR is always one of the bigger reasons people follow me. They find calm in the sounds I make when I’m working,” says Newman. “It’s fun, but I’m also really interested in teaching pottery, and holograms could be interesting for both. I often get comments about people saying, ‘I was talking about you in my pottery class today.’ I think it’d be awesome to having someone making art using my hologram or having the class standing around a digital version of me!”
Newman joins a roster of internet-famous creators who have also been transformed into holograms, such as rapper Vic Mensa, singer Poppy, rock band Blame Candy, and hairstylist Larisa Love. Jadu’s newest feature, Continuous Cam, even lets you record multiple perspectives in one single take, giving its holograms an even more realistic effect. As a majority of Jadu’s holograms are musicians and performers, Malik naturally sees AR as the next generation of content for musicians, though he believes this trend will take time to manifest, as he explained in an interview with Rolling Stone. “If fans are going out of their way to learn a skill to produce content, artists can be giving them more of a push to engage with their media as well.”
When used correctly, social media bridges the geographical gap between humans. With Jadu, Malik hopes to make AR more accessible for creative young people. Like Newman, for example, finding success in a niche area of interest, even before the age of 20, might be a daunting challenge, but there’s no limit to what AR can bring to the table for future creators in the next generation.
Cover Image: Dax Newman Instagram
Writer | Michelle Tan
Underneath her RBF, Michelle is actually a friendly raccoon. Loves collecting ugly things, changing her hair colour, and dinosaurs (not necessarily in that order).