Two Sides of the Same Coin

Two Sides of the Same Coin was an AR art installation featured in the Festival of the Impossible, San Francisco, 2018 at the Minnesota Street Project.

The Impossible

Being a first generation born Chinese American has often meant being pushed and pulled by two conflicting worlds. One internal voice will say: Be quiet, be conforming, be invisible. The other: Be an individual, be bold, be yourself. After trying unsuccessfully to remove either identities, I've realized my identity truly lies in both my Chinese and American cultures. I am a hybrid of the two. I cannot be just one or the other. The dichotomy, the tension itself is the simmering and interweaving of energies that creates the very essence of who I am. I can't remove either of them because I would no longer be me. The act of splitting my multicultural identity is impossible.

Augmented Reality
Virtual Reality
Project Aero
Tilt Brush
Research & Development

The tension of being raised by two different cultures. Impossible to be just one. Impossible to remove either of them. I am a result of the conflict between the two.

What is the meaning of the dashed line between my two selves?

It’s the dichotomy. The push and pull.

The tension itself. The energy as a result of that tension is at the core of who I am.



  • Create a thoughtful, considerate use of AR.

  • Evoke an emotional, visceral response.

  • How does the viewing become part of the experience? Why should AR be used for this?

  • The personal voice of the creator in this is incredibly important.

Design Goals

  • Play with scale and expectation

    Start with a small, quiet exhibit space (Parallels: being raised to be small, quiet, invisible as a Chinese girl)

    AR: a large, expressive, visually loud piece (Parallels: the freedom of American identity to be my self, to soar)

  • Aim for feeling of wonder. Surprise.

    Looking beyond the surface level when you see someone

    Diving in deep to uncover a more colorful story

  • Design it so that one can’t exist without the other. The physical piece and the AR piece are intertwined together.


Splitting the quote

The first half of this quote will exist in the physical/exterior space above the half-head bust.

The second half of the quote will be float in air, somewhere near the other half of my self-portrait, flying with the phoenix.

This will help reinforce the entwined relationship of the piece existing in both real physical space and in AR.

Like the half-head bust, this provides another point of exploration and resolution for the viewer to discover on their own.


Two Sides of the Same Coin was created by painting in VR with Google Tilt Brush. The file was then exported into a 3D model file, and then imported into Project Aero.

To learn more about Google Tilt Brush for the VR creation portion:

To learn more about Adobe Project Aero for the AR integration portion:

Two Sides of the Same Coin and the Festival of the Impossible has been featured in:

Thank you, friends at Adobe, for the opportunity to express this aspect of my identity and art through augmented reality, Az Balabanian and emotions studios for perfectly capturing my voice and vision through the featured profile video. You are all amazing!