With new technology comes new trends, and in this case, AR ASMR-infused slipware.
What happens when you cross a TikTok superstar ceramist with an emerging technology visionary who has a penchant for volumetric capture? “Holograms” of influencer—er, inspirer—Dax Newman, directed by the ever-industrious Asad J. Malik, founder of creative tech studio, 1RIC, and recently, Jadu. The latter is an app Malik created to produce and distribute augmented versions of Internet-famous performers for social media entertainment.
Malik and Newman combined forces at the suggestion of Newman’s manager, Channing Mitzell of Hills Artists. A lightbulb seemed to go off when he realized there might be potential for a different type of content on Malik’s Jadu, at the time offering only digital representations of musicians until the beach-blond “Papa Pots,” Newman’s nickname, came along.
“Asad and I had been going back and forth about the music elements of Jadu and we were trying to find ways to be creative once Covid-19 hit,” Mitzell says. “I thought to call Asad about Dax because it was all about bridging the digital with the tangible; Dax was super excited. The rest is history and we all met [to produce content].”
A high-level concept for Jadu had been on Malik’s brain for several years. The app is having a moment given its release at the start of the United States’ quarantine and the concurrent rise of TikTok during the pandemic. Jadu users engage with augmented assets of varied artists, namely singers, including Vic Mensa, Poppy, Pussy Riot, and more. After recording themselves dancing with or staging the performers users can upload the videos to social media.
The development and constant upkeep of updates to Jadu is a new experience for Malik whose past works have mostly been mixed reality installations, touring and winning awards at film and art festivals then going dormant, as exhibits do. Jadu is also more light-hearted than the rest of Malik’s portfolio; a change he’s excited to keep pursuing.
“I think that everything has a political life [or air] to it,” Malik says. “When you’re not doing work that isn’t explicitly political anymore, it doesn’t mean your work doesn’t still tackle political issues. Part of [1RIC’s] work, why we’re making what we are now, is because it reaches more people. It’s relevant to younger people who are an especially important audience, especially for the world to change; they need certain things to trust, young people need to feel a certain way and be excited about certain things. Dax is a light-hearted hologram. There is a certain energy that comes from [him].”
About the time Malik was launching Jadu, Newman was also beginning to have his moment, too, but from inside a small wooden shed in Southern California. The 19-year-old sculptor had begun to make social media content as a way to share his passion for pottery and sell a few of his creations along the way. He did not expect to receive the feedback or gain the audience he’s now acquired—almost five million followers on TikTok alone and another 33 thousand on Instagram.
“I never expected for [my blow up] to happen on [TikTok]!” says Newman. “It was kinda scary…I was lucky I didn’t get any hate. It’s a scary thing to think of millions of people looking at your face. I think that’s just crazy. I’m grateful that a lot of people like what I do.”
“ASMR is always one of the bigger reasons people follow me,” he goes on. “They find calm in the sounds that [I make while working]. It’s been fun to make the ASMR videos, but I’m really interested in teaching pottery and holograms could be interesting for both…I’d rather [fans] watch my videos and feel inspired to make or learn pottery because of me. That makes my day.”
The humble artist, as Malik describes his clay-molding muse, spends his time surfing and rock climbing in between honing his skills at a most ancient of crafts—certainly an interesting contrast to his HMD-wearing, controller-wielding, future-thinking collaborator on this project.
“[I constantly] get comments about people saying, ‘I was talking about you in my pottery class today,’” says Newman. “I think it would be awesome to have someone making art using my hologram or the class standing around [a digital me]! I want to see that!”
“He brought his own table and equipment to make pots [to set],” Malik says when explaining how 106 cameras captured Newman at the stage they took over one day. “We had to make sure it looked good in volumetric capture. So much of my work these days is about music; it’s easy to direct musical video shoots, because people know what they want to do with a TikTok dance, but with Dax it was interesting to create a narrative around these three holograms [we shot together], to make them simple and loop, but also make them so there’s a [narrative] progression in the clips.”
As to Newman’s fans, potheads affectionately, both he and Malik encourage meditative and calming uses of this newest of volumetric scans in the Jadu library.
“It’s all the cheesy stuff—be authentic, be true,” Malik encourages. “I think at the end of the day Dax is a great example of that, and I am, too; we’re both working in media that are off-combinations. [For example,] many people are working in ceramics, but Dax is the first to be popularized to this level with short-form videos on TikTok. In my case with technology, whether my work is going to festivals or pushing things to the next level elsewhere, like the social media world, [I want to] find out where and when it’s relevant [for new uses of tech].”
Interested in checking out Newman’s three-part scans on Jadu? Download the app via Apple or Google Play and start making some ASMR videos to share with the world.
Image Credit: Jadu