If an artist is able to transform the essence of a place using visual illusions, I am wondering how far we can go by exploring the potential of Immersive Virtual Environments (IVE).
Peter Kogler’s installations absorbs the physical constraints of the places he is investigating into a new space/time paradigm. Those constraints are made of walls, floors and ceilings – the three fundamental elements of architecture. By mapping those curvy textures and lines all over those elements, he creates the illusion of flow, of oneness. Usual sense of up and down, right and left, front and back, vanished under the optical illusion of interlaced black lines. This artefact forces the participant to reevaluate his understanding of what his mind takes for granted. Walls appears as swirling vortex . Distances are altered. Floors rise and ceilings bend.
Now, transposing this into the realm of IVE, where the only constraints are coming from the electronic limitations of hardware to process the information, what kind of strange world will we be able to imagine?
This is an artist point of view, it is supposed to question the possibilities. However, from an Enactive Approach, the process he is using is very relevant to the design of meaningful IVE. This artwork can only exist through the interaction between the build environment and the moving body.
Similarly, it is by copying those constraints into the electronic realm, that we are allowing a smooth transition to the infinite possibilities of the virtual. As our senses will adapt to this new realm, we will be able to create complete out of this world environments serving the only purpose of the virtual experience. That being said, how will the embodied mind adapt to such an alien environment ? Is the body a constant or will it change like the astronauts body into space?
I love Metaworld ‘s introduction about creating memories despite the fact they are using the social presence as their main attraction, which I completely disregard in my research, … for now. Anyway, you are wondering why would we want to create memories in a virtual environment at the first place? Isn’t it better to go out in the physical world and meet real people?
Well, it doesn’t compare. The whole idea of using VR to create memories is based on a couple of principles that are much more powerful to set up in VR : associations and embodiment.
Firstly, memories love associations. It is by associating one new information in a network of previously formed memories, that we are going to make sense of it and remember it. We will be able to retrieve the memory more efficiently later on by accessing the same network.
Secondly, memories are embodied. We don’t work like computers. We don’t have a hard drive or a cloud to engrave information one by one in a linear manner. We are storing information on a multi modal level within a mind-body system . So the more senses we are using when accessing a new information, which call upon the previous principle of association, the better we will be able to form new memories.
By proposing a persistent online world where we’re entering by immersing ourself with a HMD (Head Mounted Display), a head phone and a couple of controllers in our hands, we are already covering most of our senses. However, in VR we don’t have the same constraints as in the physical world. Anything is possible that can serve the purpose the participant is after. We can fly, we can travel into space, swim in the ocean or go inside a volcano.
Now, one of the debate about embodiment is the question of the avatar. When we enter into VR as ourself, we can see our hands, we don’t want to see a cartoonist body of ours. Although, if we want to interact with other people, we need to see them, somehow. Metaworld solves this issue by using a quite cartoonist avatars with non attached detailed hands. That way, you can see your own hands and other people hands with their avatar. Let’s try it.
Check Nathie’s vlog. His enthusiasm for VR is contagious. If you want to know where we stand in the VR sphere, just watch a couple of his last video and you will be up to date of what are the latest trends.
His take on VR headset in a nutshell are that the Rift without controls is not so fun; the HTC Vive has played a big role for the last couple of month; now, let’s what the Playstation VR has to offer.`
Now from the a Vlog point of view, this kid is definitely working hard on his vlog. He is making things happening all by himself, investing in materials, props and time to make a quality vlog.
Part of my research project is to investigate the way humans perceive and remember their surroundings, from an architectural point of view. Results from the first set of experiment using 3D Virtual Environment (3DVE), see ArchiMemory XP 2.3, brought me some insights on what architectural features are most efficient at enhancing participants memory.
This is typically a top-down approach: by placing architectural elements (doors, windows, arches …) at specific locations inside a 3DVE, we can use them as triggers or symbols to construct a meaningful journey for the participant. For example, a door is used as a transition from one type of information to another; a window is used as a digression device to give a hint on something else without taking you away from the main subject.
Lets look through that window, for a mo!
A few month ago, I had the opportunity to work on an important project about syrian’s prison with a special research group in Goldsmiths: Forensic Architecture (FA). I couldn’t say much until the official release of the website we worked on due to the secrecy of the mission. Now that Amnesty International has released the website, I am taking the opportunity to briefly explain the project in the light of my own research.
The purpose of this project is to make the public aware of the existence of torture prison in Syria where humans right are baffles everyday. No NGO or any journalist have ever been inside, we don’t have any document, picture or report on this prison. What we do have is a satellite view and a few ex-prisoners testimonies.
FA investigation started by doing long interviews of those witnesses. Based on their memories, an architect and a sound designer rebuild in real-time a 3D model of the prison. Because prisoners were blindfolded when arriving at the prison, most of their memories are based on sounds, movements and proprioception. Only after a few weeks, they got to their main cell, they were able to see the walls and the other people faces. Even though, sounds were a big part of their memories, my job was to focus on the visuals including 3D models, lights and textures. I will explain more about this in a separate post.
Back to the main room.
Working on this project gave me the opportunity to understand my research topic from a bottom-up approach. In this case, memories are already in participant’s minds. They are vivid and strongly attach to all sort of emotions and perceptions due to the high stress environment where they happend. In a opposite direction as my previous method, here the process was to extract and rebuild those spaces from memory.
Those interviews were a constant demonstration of how memory works. The further we got in the interviews, the more we realised that memory is triggered by details like objects, architectural elements or colors. Being in a cell with no window or arche, those triggers can take very different shapes. It can be a water pipe with his specific sound, re-purposed as a communication device or a hatch in the door through which the food was coming.
Before closing the door.
Even though those two methodologies are very different by essence, one being to enhance memory, the other being to retrieve information from existing memories, they have a lot of common ground. From a cognitive psychology point of view, the main factor activating those memories is “trigger”. Either we find them by telling the stories we remember and go in as much details as we can, or we place those triggers along a new journey to create that story.
To have a hint of those prisoners memory, visit the website and explore the 360 panoramas (more about this in next post) here: Saydnaya Project
Experiencing with space, placing the participant in an environment that will shift his perspective, is a powerful way to question who we are and how much we relate to our surroundings. AVPD, an artistic spatial laboratory from Copenhagen, is using architecture language to explore and “rethink the triangular constellation of the subject, the object and the context”. Their work evolves by hustling the space-body phenomenon. It makes you realised how much our perception of the world relates on our acquired experiences and emotions.
Once aware of this phenomenon, we can use it at our advantage by reconfiguring our spatial understanding of the world. What I am interested in is to extract from those experiments and art installations some data that could lead to quantify the usefulness of specific architectural features at helping someone to navigate the physical world as well as the virtual world.