Quirky Interactive Art Campaign Lets Kids Send Climate Change Messages With AR Faces

An app superimposes kids' faces on environmental scenes using augmented reality

Kids superimpose their face on environmental imagery to speak out about climate change. AKQA

A new interactive art campaign is making children the face of climate change—literally.

The project, from artist Olafur Eliasson with support from agency AKQA, lets kids superimpose their faces on various environmental scenes through augmented reality tech and share their thoughts about how climate change will impact their futures. All that’s needed to participate is a specially designed iOS or Android app called Earth Speakr.

In the video accompanying the campaign, the expressions of kids’ faces play out on top of scenes like melting glaciers, handfuls of soil and plastic bottles. A kid’s face on a tree trunk tries frantically to blow out the spark of a wildfire, while another coughs and sputters from a billowing smokestack.

“You could consider making me out of more environmentally friendly materials—just a thought!” the sidewalk says.

The piece was created specifically to mark Germany’s turn at the presidency of the Council of the EU in 2020, which begins today, and received funding from the country’s Foreign Federal Office. The creators partnered with German cultural association the Goethe-Institut as well as a network of museums, libraries and other educational institutions to spread the artwork.

The campaign will also involve various activations, like an installation in the lobbies of the European Parliament, which comes back into session this month, in which a circle of 25 screens will stream all of the messages to entering politicians.

“It’s [Eliasson’s] commitment to ensure that these messages would be brought to the people in power,” Peter Lund, chief creative officer at AKQA, told Adweek.

The initial concept was shaped by Eliasson’s conversations with child psychologists and children about the best digital medium possible to elicit kids’ thoughts. While AKQA had handled plenty of AR projects before, the process of superimposing faces onto inanimate surfaces proved to be a challenging first for the team.

“The real difficulty was blending real life together and using real textures and real objects, and blending them together with virtual faces—and then allowing that to happen in real time,” Lund said.

With more than 100 kids throughout Europe already having participated this week, the campaign has already proven more popular than expected. The app has now evolved into a social network of sorts, where you can see geo-located entries on a map or a live feed, and users can filter and search out posts by location and environmental topic.

“The excitement has just grown bigger and bigger, the higher the visibility of the art hashtag has gone,” Lund said. “It’s amazing to see the kids’ imagination and to see them put their voice and what they have on their mind to these faces. And of course, we can’t wait to see how it’s gonna it’s gonna scale in the next couple of months.”

The agency has also been in talks with potential partners about raising money to keep the project going on a more permanent basis. “It grew a lot bigger than what we had initially anticipated,” Lund said.

@patrickkulp patrick.kulp@adweek.com Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.