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Ideas and Ideals: Strong Female Voices III ONLINE EVENT  Albertine Bookstore/French Embassy 972 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10075 
Sep 22
Ideas and Ideals: Strong Female Voices III ONLINE EVENT  Albertine Bookstore/French Embassy 972 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10075 
Sep 22
When the Waves Have Come and Gone Plage des Catalans

"My Own Assistant," a Dystopian AR Experience: Meet its Creators, Alain Damasio and Marie Blondiaux

Image: M.O.A. (My Own Assistant) - Red Corner (c)

M.O.A. (My Own Assistant) is an immersive experience that transports you to 2040. The actual urban architecture hasn’t changed; it’s the augmented reality overlay that transforms the city. Public space is overrun with surveillance and marketing. But your personal assistant is there to help you navigate it all: it follows you everywhere you go, making life effortless. This fiction uses new media to make us think about our own uses of technology. 

Written by Charles Ayats, Alain Damasio and Frédéric Deslias, M.O.A. is inspired by The Stealth (Les Furtifs), the latest novel by famous French science fiction writer Alain Damasio. The story imagines France in twenty years, full of invasive technology recording the smallest of thoughts, deeds, and actions of its citizens who are fed a diet of advertisements and personalized media. As part of his techno-critical work, Damasio will be one of the first residents of the Villa San Francisco, an institution that invites artists to question the world’s most pressing challenges in connection with the Bay Area communities.

Following the book's theatrical adaptation by Frédéric Deslias, an augmented reality app for smartphones has just been released on Google Play and Apple Store by French studio Red Corner. We talked to writer Alain Damasio and producer Marie Blondiaux to learn more about this new immersive experience.

  • In the book, a ring interfaces our relationships to the world by offering each individual his digital alter ego in the form of a personalized AI. With this app, the ring has been replaced by the user’s smartphone. What are the main narrative choices you made to craft a unique story for each user?

M.B.: Much of our story is based on the user's emotional relationship with an artificial intelligence, MOA - My Own assistant - which centralizes all aspects of his life. Gently, it offers you simple choices about your home life, your circle of friends, your cat and, little by little, leads you to a borderline situation.

  • By choosing to adapt this book into an AR app rather than a movie or a VR experience, what was your intention?

M.B.: Augmented reality has become the norm for the city of 2040 as described by Alain Damasio in The Stealth. The walls are still as grey as ever, but an additional layer of information about reality, perceived by citizens through their lenses, allows advertising and surveillance to be omnipresent. In MOA, we wanted to give a glimpse of this possible future.

  • What were the challenges you faced in transcribing the story from paper to digital? 

M.B. & A.D.: In the novel, augmented reality has reached a degree of sophistication that is far from that of today! Our challenge was to offer an experience accessible to as many people as possible: we had to give up on developing features described in the novel that proved to be too unreliable once applied to different phones. We focused on fiction to make people think.

  • Alain Damasio, how does MOA echo the work you will carry out during your residency at the Villa San Francisco? What do you expect from this experience?

A.D.: MOA is a perfect illustration of the techno-critical work I have been trying to conduct for the past two decades: attempting to show, through and with technology, what gentle self-alienation and voluntary servitude implies. The future of personalized AI, which the GAFA is preparing for us, will in my opinion close a little more tightly the digital cocoon in which we are already indulging. It will consign us to our ego and to our traces even more deeply, moving us away from a precious relationship with alterity.

As for the Villa San Francisco, I expect above all to discover in real life the mindset of the decision-makers of Silicon Valley, to better gauge their ambitions, their vision of the world, and ultimately to get a sense of where they want to take us. And, of course, to confront them with my critical reflections and to see how they react to this very humanistic French touch that I advocate for and which is antagonistic to the latent transhumanism that they embody.  


Co-produced by Red Corner, France Télévisions, La Volte, Le Clair Obscur, Le Forum des Images, Small Studio and Chroniques, with the support of the CNC and Normandie Images, this new one of a kind augmented reality story is now available to download on your smartphone on Google Play and Apple Store

M.O.A. won the “Special Jury Prize for an experience in augmented reality” at the Paris 2020 NewImages Festival.