Pioneer is an ambitious, outdoor, augmented reality artwork which explores urgent contemporary themes around innovation, hubris and technology elitism through a reflection on Victorian engineering. The work juxtaposes Victorian engineer Magnus Volk’s unique seagoing electric train on stilts called ‘Pioneer’ that was affectionately referred to as ‘Daddy Long Legs’ (1896-1901) in Brighton to contemporary mobile technologies such as augmented reality, 5G and SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network.

This photo shows Pioneer on its original tracks embedded in the rock pools near Roedean college, that ran almost 2 miles between Kemp town’s Paston Place (Banjo groyne) and Rottingdean.

Launching on 06.11.21 in the first weekend of Brighton Digital Festival the artwork will extend through an extensive events programme across England

To experience the artwork you are required to download onto your smartphones the latest free ‘Pioneer AR’ app for Android & Apple phones. When you point it out to sea each of the audience using The AR app will see Pioneer and hear its ethereal soundscape as it will be ‘geo-tagged’ to the original location of the Pioneer’s steel rails. Vintage style printed postcards will also be produced allowing the experience to be triggered off-site. 

The project has been supported in kind by Brighton Digital Festival, Birmingham Open Media, the Computer Arts Society with events & exhibitions occurring between late 2021 and October 2022.

The project has been generously funded by The Arts Council of England and supported by Brighton Digital Festival, hosted by Lighthouse.
Many thanks to the Regency Society for the use of the Pioneer photographs. You can see the whole of the James Gray archive at regencysociety-jamesgray.com
The 3d modelling and app programming was made by artist Alex May