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AR App Reintroduces Native Ecology To Oklahoma

Tess Elliot, creator of the app nOaks.
Tess Elliot
Tess Elliot, creator of the app nOaks.

A new augmented reality app transforms 30 locations around the Oklahoma City metro area into a virtual Cross Timber woodland in an effort to reintroduce native ecology to the region. 

nOaks, also referred to as Infinite Oaks, gives the illusion through a cell phone camera that you're walking through a virtual woodland filled with trees, grass and flower sprites. 


Tess Elliot, the the app's creator and an assistant professor of art, technology and culture at the University of Oklahoma, said she hopes it will inspire people to experience and protect real native spaces. 



"I hope it's kind of a poetic gesture toward the reintroduction of native ecology to the region or at least the valuing of it, seeking it out and realizing in real spaces that it no longer really exists," Elliot said. 

The app was made as part of Oklahoma Contemporary's June Studio-In-Placeprogram. The projects are inspired by themes related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and artists interact with the public online throughout the creative process. 




"It's very different than a regular artistic residency because you're not in the solace of your own studio," she said. "You're very actively engaging with the public online during a time when we're all socially distant."


These virtual woodlands can be found at places like the OU campus and Oklahoma Contemporary, but Elliot has left it up to the public to hunt down the other locations to spark a conversation about land use and control. 


"You get captivated maybe by the technology of this virtual space, but then there's very much the absence of it," Elliot said. "And I think the absence of that kind of real native ecology becomes highlighted when you experience a virtual version of it."


Before creating nOaks, she created an AR app in May called Grass Flower Weed which creates the illusion through a cell phone camera that virtual tallgrass prairie and wildflowers are growing. 


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Katelyn discovered her love for radio as a student employee at KGOU, graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, and then working as a reporter and producer in 2021-22. Katelyn has completed internships at SiriusXM in New York City and at local news organizations such as The Journal Record and The Poteau Daily News. Katelyn served as president of the OU chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists from 2017 to 2020. She grew up in Midland, Texas.
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