Child of Now: An AR look at our future generations in the heart of Melbourne

Child of Now artist's impression.
Child of Now by Robert Walton, concept image by Xavier Irvine. Picture: Supplied

A new large-scale public art commission involving interactive augmented reality will call on 14,400 Melburnians to create, shape and nurture a vision of the future for an imagined child born in 2021.

The Child of Now artwork, a collaboration between University of Melbourne and Arts Centre Melbourne, will be represented as a 100-metre-high digital hologram atop of Arts Centre Melbourne’s Hamer Hall for 10 days in 2024.

The technology-driven art installation was conceptualised by Artist in Residence at the University’s School of Computing and Information Systems within the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology Dr Robert Walton and written by First Nations author and activist Claire G. Coleman.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne will work with impressions collected from 14,400 Melburnians to give life to the moving image via volumetric body scanning and interactive augmented reality technologies in this public artwork.

Lead for concept and direction of the project Dr Robert Walton said the Child of Now will age from 0 to 100 years over a 10-day performance. Across each day, the Child of Now will live a ‘normal’ day – walking, playing, communicating, interacting and dreaming across each 24-hour cycle.

“By following the life of an imagined child born in 2021, made up of the contributed faces, dreams and gestures of the current population, it becomes possible to rehearse our future in an invested, emotional, hopeful and human way,” Dr Walton said.

In late 2021, a prototype of Child of Now will inhabit Arts Centre Melbourne over a long weekend – inviting the first public contributions to the project as the part of the work’s next stage of development.

“This way of working with an Artist in Residence has led to a distinctive collaboration which extends the University’s capacity to effect change at the forefront of creative practice in technology, art and entertainment,” Deputy Dean from the University’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology Professor Frank Vetere said.

Arts Centre Melbourne CEO Claire Spencer said projects of this scale and ambition appear once in a decade and require the support and expertise of our city’s cultural and educational institutions to be realised.

“We are thrilled to partner with the University of Melbourne to bring this project to life,” Ms Spencer said.

The Child of Now prototype has been co-commissioned by Arts Centre Melbourne and the University of Melbourne. The feasibility study for the Child of Now was supported by Arts Centre Melbourne, Creative Victoria, City of Melbourne and the University of Melbourne.