SINGAPORE – Technology is changing street culture – from the way people play, create and sell products such as toys and sneakers.
Over the weekend (Dec 1 and 2) visitors to Culture Cartel, billed as Asia’s first all-encompassing street culture convention, got a chance to see first-hand how toy and streetwear companies, as well as artists, are adopting new techniques and processes.
The first virtual reality (VR) graffiti battle in Asia using Tilt Brush by Google, a software launched in 2016which allows a user to paint in 3D space through virtual reality, was featured at the event.
Tilt Brush allows the user to paint with three-dimensional brush strokes to create life-sized images such as of stars, light and even fire., It works by projecting a fully immersive digital world around the user.
Mr Marc Wong, 31, head of content for Culture Cartel, says: “If you pick the Tilt Brush up, you will see it is quite a magical experience, whether it is used to create a doodle, design a car or paint a landscape. The possibilities are endless.”
All one needs is a VR-ready computer, a VR system such as the HTC Vive, and the Tilt Brush software, he adds.
The software can be downloaded, and VR-ready computers are available at electronic stores here, as well as online stores.
Mr Wong adds: “The purpose of this battle is to showcase how graffiti has evolved with technology, and the future we are heading towards.”
During the battle, eight contestants – none with any experience with VR, but with a good grasp of freestyle writing or drawing – competed among themselves using their VR painting skills.
The winner was full-time visual artist Eman Raharno Jeman, 32, who goes by the name Clogtwo.He won a HTC Vive system, which consists a VR headset, two controllers and two base stations, valued at $949 altogether.
In one of the battles, he drew a sunset scene of a flamingo among some plants on a lake. He said: “Real graffiti are 2D art pieces, and I liked how the Tilt Brush allows me to create 3D virtual pieces and worlds that you are can be immersed in. The artwork can be floating and free-flowing.”
Toy and sneaker companies are also using new technology to improve their processes.
When local designer toy studio Mighty Jaxx created its first figure in 2012, it was hand-sculpted and the process was long and painful.
Mighty Jaxx founder, Mr Jackson Aw, resolved to find a better way and since then has been using ZBrush, a digital sculpting tool that allows for 3D modelling, texturing and painting. This software uses technology which stores lighting, colour, material, and depth information for all objects on the screen.
The toys are then printed using a Form 2 3D printer, which creates high-resolution parts at a fraction of the cost and footprint of industrial 3D printers. The printer can also prepare preliminary physical models for quality checks.
The initial sculpt for all his toys at Culture Cartel were made in this way, with all the equipment housed in Mighty Jaxx’s studio in Geylang.
Mr Aw, 29, says: “These are currently the latest technologies used in the industry. Both offer flexibility in scaling of models, and adjustments take much less time than sculpting the toys by hand. There are no notable drawbacks.”
Apart from the creation of products, technology has also changed the way they are distributed.
Home-grown sneaker boutique Limited Edt has been selling some of its shoes through a mobile app, Frenzy, since the middle of this year.
The app, available on iOS and Android platforms, brings together sneaker and streetwear products for sale.
Mr Mandeep Chopra, 42, Limited Edt’s managing director, says: “Using the app lets us cut out the problems of bots and overselling, which we face on our webpage because of the crazy demand of some of the launches.
“It also adds a layer of novelty and fun to the checkout experience through the use of dropzones, which are geo-fenced zones where buyers must physically be in to access certain sales.”