To mark what would have been David Bowie’s 72nd birthday, the musical innovator is getting an innovative app. The David Bowie Is . . . augmented-reality app is based on the record-breaking museum exhibition of the same name, which toured the world before ending after a run at New York’s Brooklyn Museum last year. The app features more than 400 items to explore, including video and images from Bowie’s life on and off camera, complete with a musical soundtrack, and narration from Oscar-winning actor Gary Oldman.
As the creators put it, the app gains you access to all the exhibits: “Without the entire exhibition in the intimacy of your own environment, without glass barriers, vitrines, or throngs of visitors.” Considering how crowded the show was at the Brooklyn Museum, you may not have been able to read handwritten lyric sheets over the shoulder of a tall flannel-clad guy, but thanks to the app you now have the opportunity. The David Bowie Is AR mobile app is the first release from a collaboration between the David Bowie Archive and Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc., which hosted the exhibition in Tokyo in 2017. They conscripted New York-based studio Planeta to design and develop the AR/VR versions of the original museum experience.
The app is available in iOS and Android and requires headphones and a little patience to figure out. Once you’re used to twisting your phone around to find the best angles to view the virtual items, the AR adaptation takes you on a tour of the museum show, walking through virtual rooms as if you were in the museum itself, complete with an accompanying audiovisual tour of the artifacts from Bowie’s impressive life. There are 3D renderings of his costumes, videos, handwritten lyrics, storyboards, and even diary entries–all rendered in 360-degree detail for up-close viewing. With the app, you can zoom in on lyric sheets and rotate the outlandish costumes a full 360 degrees.
The app also has exclusive content that wasn’t at the show, including film from Bowie’s from the 1974 Diamond Dogs Tour, footage from the experimental Diamond Dogs movie, rehearsal footage from the 1976 Station to Station Tour, and more.
While it doesn’t quite measure up to the experience of seeing the show in person, if you’re agoraphobic, or the show didn’t come near your home, or you went to the show but couldn’t fully enjoy it through the throngs of visitors, the app is a close second.
Besides, how often do you get to have Gary Oldman whispering in your ear about David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane costumes?