Ibsen brought back to life

Visit Oslo with Norway’s greatest playwright


Henrik Ibsen’s monologues in the app are performed by renowned Norwegian actor Jan Sælid.


“More than a 100 years ago, Henrik Ibsen was a well-known sight on the streets of Oslo—and now he’s back,” says Widar Pastoor at VisitOSLO. “The format is playful and engaging—you can even take a picture with Ibsen!”

Oslo Spex is a new augmented reality (AR) application, free of charge, for smart phones with a focus on Ibsen and Oslo. In the app, you get information through sound and text, both in English and Norwegian.

Take a walk in the footsteps of Ibsen

The app weaves together many stories about Ibsen’s life, art, and his relationship with Oslo. In the app, you will find a full-scale animation of Ibsen, located in six places around the city, which all have a connection to Ibsen’s life and work, including outside the Ibsen Museum (Ibsen’s former hone) and Grand Hotel. The app is equipped with an interactive map that makes it easy to locate the spots where Ibsen appears.

Ibsen lived in a completely different time and in a city that looked quite different from how it does today. In the mid-19th century, Oslo was named Christiania and had only 5% of the population it has today. The Oslo Spex app brings Ibsen’s fascinating world back to life.

The “father of realism”

Henrik Ibsen is often referred to as the “father of realism” and is one of the most frequently performed dramatists in the world, after Shakespeare. He had a special relationship with the city of Christiania, where he wrote and directed at Christiania Theatre.

He lived many years abroad, in Germany and Italy mostly, but most of the plays he wrote took place in Christiania. He came back to Norway later in life and lived many years in the capital before he died in 1906.

ibsen oslo

Photo courtesy of VisitOSLO
The Oslo Spex app lets you activate a full-scale animation of Henrik Ibsen at six different locations in Oslo.

The making of a true Henrik Ibsen 

The Oslo Spex app has been developed through a collaboration between VisitOSLO, the Norwegian technology company Haptiq AS, and the Norwegian Ibsen Company, founded by Kåre Conradi, who has prepared the script and direction.

“It has been important for us to be true to Ibsen’s appearance and his demeanor. Ibsen has been described by others as everything from warm and funny to hard, cold, and distanced with a razor-sharp look. His distinctive features lie in the details,” says Conradi.

Conradi is one of Norway’s leading Ibsen actors and a lifetime employee at the National Theatre of Norway. Many will also recognize him from the role Jens Smit in Netflix’s Viking drama Norsemen.

It has been a challenging task to make a credible Henrik Ibsen. There are no audio recordings or film clips of him. Inspiration is taken from photos, drawings, paintings, and what has been said and written about him.

In addition, biographies and letters are used to find different character descriptions; everything to make Ibsen as close to reality as possible.

The famous playwright is portrayed in the app by the Norwegian actor Jan Sælid.

The possibilities of technology

Today, we usually have our smartphone with us when exploring new places. AR technology enables us to interact with Oslo and the city’s fascinating stories in completely new ways.

Ståle Lund-Andersen, one of the founders of Haptiq AS, which has been in charge of animation and technical development in the project, says: “The project Oslo Spex has given us the opportunity to unfold artistically and creatively. We are very pleased with the result and hope that the users will enjoy how they get to experience Ibsen and the city of Oslo in a completely new way.”

Places you can encounter Ibsen with the Oslo Spex app:

• By the Ibsen Museum (Ibsen’s apartment in Arbins gate 1)

• Outside his residence in the venerable Victoria Terrasse

• By Domus Academica (University of Oslo downtown campus)

• By the statue of Ibsen outside the National Theatre

• Outside Grand Café

• A secret spot that is revealed in the app after you have visited all the other locations

Please note that the app only works in downtown Oslo. The app can be downloaded for free on iPhone and on Android.

Curious to know more about what ties Ibsen had to Oslo and these places in particular? Learn more about Ibsen’s daily walk through the streets of Oslo at: visitoslo.com/en/articles/a-walk-with-henrik-ibsen.


Photo: public domain
Portrait of Henrik Ibsen by Julius Schaarwächter.


Henrik Ibsen (1828 – 1906)

• Norwegian playwright, theater director, and poet

• Proponent of realism and founder of modernism in theater

• Main works include Brand, Peer Gynt, An Enemy of the People, A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler, The Wild Duck, The Master Builder, and Ghosts

• Lived in Oslo from 1891 and until his death in 1906

• Often ranked as one of the truly great playwrights in the European tradition

•  Considered the greatest playwright since Shakespeare by many critics


Oslo Spex: 

An app with AR technology created in collaboration with:

• Haptiq AS (animation and technical development)

• The Norwegian Ibsen Company (script and direction)

• VisitOSLO (concept development, text and project management)

• Good Morning Naug (user interface design)

•  Eiendomsspar AS (sponsor)

 “Spex” comes from the English word “spectacles” (glasses). With “Oslo spectacles,” the developers hope you will discover things you would not otherwise notice on a stroll in the streets of Oslo.


What is AR technology?

With augmented reality (AR), you do not replace all visual impressions but place a layer of additional digital content on top of an image, preferably directly from a camera. Examples of apps with AR technology: Pokémon Go, AR Ruler and Google Lens.


This article originally appeared in the June 10, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.