I had started reading a book Possible Worlds by Ralph Schroeder. I was particularly drawn to the chapter From the Laboratory to Consumer Electronics. In his book Schroeder mentions how the Fraunhofer Institute of Stuttgart who were one of the first to establish a European presence on virtual Reality research, had started commercial use within VR. ‘In 1993, the institute had announced only one commercial venture, a collaboration to produce a furniture display. It was clear, however, that this was more of a demonstration showpiece rather than a venture with commercial promise.’ (1996, p.48) As this was one of the earliest test on using VR as commercial venture, it was only seen as a form of ‘art’.
The advances of technology now however, has allowed many companies to use augmented and virtual reality in real estate and property sales. This helps customers see potential with VR property tours, allowing people to conceptualise and understand what’s difficult to imagine from a picture or detailed description. Furthermore, clients can experience the space, light and feel of the room without being there in person.
Below is an example of a Virtual reality tour of the Wanda Vista in the Golden Coast. It is incredible how interactive the experience is. You are able to even open the windows to view the incredible view which allows this to be more of a immersive bodily experience.
I have really enjoyed this expanded practice course as it has pushed me out of my comfort zone. I enjoyed debating the issues around virtual reality with new fellow class members from different disciplines. It offered me the opportunity to explore my practice outside my established studio work. Virtual reality was a topic I had no knowledge upon, so this unit extended and developed my knowledge base.
The main reason why I chose to learn more about virtual reality was because I was lacking in information about it. I wanted some answers to why people felt the need to use VR. It seemed to me it was only a solution without a true problem. As we started learning more about VR, I was blown away by how exciting Virtual reality actually is. I grew to realise that it is not just a gadget that you put on for pure entertainment. People also use it as the ultimate empathy machine, for example placing yourself into someone else’s shoes. This itself benefits people who are less physically able to experience things, allowing them to take part in an immersive experience with VR which allows them to do things they can’t physically do.
This is an example of where VR headsets are used to test out ideas around empathy and identity by allowing people to explore the world through someone else’s eyes.
Figure 13. (IDFA, 2014)
This is an example of something that really inspired me. I wanted to relate VR with my own studio work. I did this by coming up with an idea to create an abstract world that can be explored mainly by kids and people with physical and learning disabilities to allow them to touch and feel different textures which will kick start them into understanding the sense of touch. I personally feel VR should be used for reasons like this, rather than creating programs that will make human beings lazier.
I am aware that VR is very expensive, hence not accessible for all, however, I have grown to realize that when more people are able to explore this platform, there will be a lot of new advances within technology that will help benefit people in the future. I believe it will mark a new beginning, changing the way we live. It will give people comfort through being able to transport into different countries, go shopping without physically being at the mall etc. This itself is all very exciting however, it also has its disadvantages. I feel this will lead us into being dependent on VR, where we start to believe simulation is better than reality. I’ve learnt that VR can be a very immersive experience that can easily be adapted into something desirable- you can change the space, time, climate and scale, being able to create a utopian world that you have always dreamed of.
I believe all our seminars were very informative, it was very nice having a tutor that had a lot of knowledge and was truly passionate in the field of VR. I was very excited during our last seminar, when we finally got the chance to voice our own views about the issues around virtual reality. I would have really liked to debate more during our seminars.
Today was our last seminar where we all discussed our experiences so far. We got into groups and identified the potentials and challenges faced around VR. We placed VR in context by discussing several factors including:
Fears and anxieties
Big deep questions
Ideas and speculations
Inspirations and excitement
Some of our fears and anxietiesin regard to the field of VR were the problems faced in virtual crime. We started questioning whether video games for example: GTA make people violent? Nowadays even kids are exposed to these violent games allowing them to leap into the world of violence. Without being aware of this, I believe kids in particular start believing that the use of weapons makes them appear cool. This results in the lack of criticality, increasing the rate of gangs and violence.
Another key issue that we discussed was about the use of VR within the military and remote-controlled applications. We thought this itself was frightening because what will happen when weapons are no longer attached to humans? Once VR starts to improve, how will these powerhouses use it to their advantage?
We also debated on whether these virtual worlds can affect people on social levels. Will people start becoming dependent on VR/ stimulation better than reality? This itself will result in people losing touch with humans. Which will then mean we will start suffering from an identity crisis where everyone will be in their own utopia.
Our big deep questions were based around the possible social and cultural changes after the improvements within VR. Who will determine boundaries and regulations of virtual worlds? E.g. regulations vs innovation and will this isolate us? And is VR really necessary? What is the real point of it? / solution without a problem.
Ideas and speculations– I believe technology is the main factor that will be affected. The advances of VR will impact our oncoming generation. Virtual reality will most definitely make people lazier as everything will be done through technology.
We also spoke about our inspirations and excitement. Virtual reality will transform the way we will interact with each other, enabling us to feel closer to individuals/ remote sensory connections. We discussed how eventually we would be able to try out clothes and makeup virtually without physically being at stores. We all agreed that VR will be a platform that will help develop our current practices including textiles, interiors or graphics.
Finally, some of the improvements we feel should be made in VR is for it to be more of a sensory experience. (Especially in the area of touch.) This will make it more of an immersive experience.
Today we had the chance to pitch our own visual proposal for our virtual reality concept.
For this project, I worked in partnership with my friend. We were both inspired by our textiles colour project. We had both created a range of different textured samples. My project was inspired by rustic walls. My aim throughout the colour project was to capture texture to the fullest. As I have stated before, I believe VR can be improved through making it more of a sensorial experience. We both agreed that the current VR industry is often visual based hence why we wanted to place heavy emphasis on the sense of touch for our virtual reality concept.
Our idea was to have a placement of our textile samples with different textures on the walls while people walk around an abstract world through the VR glasses. The audience will be able to touch the walls/ surroundings, kick-starting children to understand the sense of touch. We wanted this to be easily accessible for people with physical and learning disabilities, allowing them to be surrounded in an abstract world which will excite and will be an interactive activity for all.
Below are two examples of prototypes of what our texture wall could potentially look like. It is interesting to see the differences between both textured walls. They each create a different atmosphere, which will allow each experience to be vastly different. My samples are made up of a softer colour palette with more of a delicate touch, which in return will sooth the person, making them feel calmer whilst getting immersed within the environment. On the other hand, my friends samples are bold in colour with dynamic shapes. This will make people feel energised, boosting their mood. I believe both our textured walls will offer different enjoyable sensoral experiences. It will be a unique experience as it will give them the chance to travel through a room full of different textures.
I really enjoyed working on the proposal with my friend because it allowed us to think about how our works could be used in virtual reality. We were able to share ideas and join our ideas together to form an interactive activity that can be used for teaching and training. Overall, I believe we could have improved our idea by considering what type of VR gear would be needed to interact with the textural wall, considering the fact that it is not relying on the use of a VR headset.
Today we had another visit from Piera. It was an insight and overview into how to create our own virtual worlds. It included a demonstration of the Unity software and 360 video equipment. She gave us a clear comparison between high end VR options vs affordable ones for students including software’s like gear VR and HTC Vive.
Can run off your Samsung phone
Can be complicated to export
Setting up Unity can take a day or two, debugging is time consuming.
Lower quality rendering
More difficult to integrate transportation
Predominantly windows based
Easier to integrate with unity
Exporting is simple
Transportation is easier to integrate
Works easily with both mac and windows
Unless you spend thousands of equipment, you would need to limit your work to where it’s placed (e.g. Digital Maker Collective)
Not portable (unless with great difficulty)
She also mentioned that if we would like to start by designing with readymade shapes, the best programs to use would-be Cinema 4D, Blender 3D or Rhino. With these apps, you can quite simply create shapes and animate them by adding textures. This lesson made me realise how simple it can be to create my own virtual reality worlds with a bit of practice. Before, I didn’t really know where to start with VR, however the advice I received from her really marked a starting point for me.
We are all aware that at this point in time, VR is not accessible for all due to pricing, however, when It is affordable for all, what impact will this have upon design? Will all design processes rely on technology?
During this session, we got the chance to try the VR gear headset. We were able to discover the possibilities at Chelsea through the Digital Maker Collective. We tried on the HTC VIVE VR gear. The program we got to try out was called google tilt brush. The program allowed us to draw/paint freely using the hand controllers. I mainly enjoyed being able to draw absolutely anything I wanted to.
Figure 6. (Google, 2016)
It was a weird feeling being isolated from the real world into a blank canvas where I was expected to create a world for me to be encapsulated in. It is a very unique experience because the drawings you create are 3D hence why you need to think about what it will look like in every perspective. I was aiming to draw things that looked realistic, carefully considering the depth, scale and height- this for me was challenging. I also started to feel quite nauseous however despite this, it was a great experience that I would love to try out again.
At first, I was quite nervous, fully aware that people were watching me from the outside, but once I started drawing, I was surprised at how fast I became immersed. This experience itself helped me realize the reasons to why people use VR as a way to escape reality. It truly manages to pull you into a new environment, allowing yourself to let loose whilst getting creative.
I believe this VR software could be really handy for designers as it is a new way of designing. This VR experience will most definitely allow me to further my practice in textile design. My design process is mainly 2D, I don’t always think about how my samples will look on the figure, or objects. However, this software can quite easily allow designers like myself to import certain objects such as a mannequin which could then be used to design directly onto.
Some of the disadvantages with the HTC VR gear was that we had to manually adjust the eye levels to match with the screen. If, however you are unable to sort this, you get motion sickness which is not ideal.
Today we had a guest speaker Piera Rasmussen who had completed her MA at Chelsea School of Art in Interior and Spatial design. Piera talked us through her previous projects which were focused on Gender and Identity in Virtual reality. Her Inside the Spyglass project greatly inspired me. She had taken inspiration from Alice and wonderland to create a utopian world. She moved away from the clinical VR headset by making one that looks very surreal and unexpected. Her headset is a multisensory creation as it has moss growing out of it. This itself allows the user to feel completely immersed within the surreal setting. You can touch and smell the moss which makes the experience feel realistic.
This idea really excited me because as a textile artist, my creative process is completely dependent in the sense of touch. I have always thought the clinical VR headsets are very boring and quite intimidating to use. However, Piera’s innovative idea of pushing beyond the classic black goggle, makes me realize the potential of what’s to come in the future. I personally feel Piera’s VR headset is a lot less intimidating to try on, as it looks as though it is an everyday object, welcoming its audience to touch it.
Sylvia Xueni Pan discusses the requirements for the body to make immersive and believable virtual experiences to take place.
Figure 5. (Virtual Futures, 2016)
There is not much difference from a virtual economy and a real economy really. The only difference between a virtual economy and a “real” economy is that in virtual economies all goods are virtual. I already had some knowledge about virtual economies because when I was younger I used to play online games which had a running online economy. We also had a discussion about job stimulators. We were shown an example of a virtual reality job stimulator game where the player was working in a restaurant. I thought this was shocking because it made me realize that sooner or later, human beings could possibly be replaced by machines, purely being dependent on technology.
Virtual economies are now all around us, from the games on our smartphones, to bitcoin and even on social media. In developing games, designers have found ways to develop an economy within the game itself. Just like a real-world economy, these virtual economies can drive the game.
What are some of the threats and risks of virtual economies?
There are some risks that some people face where the real life meets the virtual. In 2005, a Chinese man was stabbed to death after selling a powerful sword an ac- quaintance had lent him in the online game Legends of Mir 3. The attacker had first reported the “theft” to police, who claimed there was nothing they could do, and then took matters into his own real-life hands. (BBC, 2005.)
As a result, gamers who do not protect their real-life identity information, including their IP address and gaming account information, have found that their actions in the game follow them home through harassing telephone calls, email, or even physical mail or personal visits.
This session placed historical markers that helped us map significant developments in the evolution of virtual realities. It helped me understand a wider scope of VR and how it has revolutionised sectors including the world of gaming, communication and design. I also was able grasp the origins of Virtual realities which helped me understand the reasons to why people are so keen on developing VR.
The Origins Of Virtual Reality
Before technology was created humans would share stories with the use of fire and shadows to create a world which would allow them to feel like they were a part of a desired utopian environment. Without the use of any external technology, people would be able to picture themselves in different realities to the one we currently found ourselves in. This highlights the fact that we have always been people who have liked to picture ourselves being in desirable locations. These characteristics have slowly led people onto developing new ways to transform ourselves into different locations with the help of technology, without depending on the use of our imagination.
Virtual reality is a very powerful form of technology which allows us to achieve things that we may not be able to do so in our ordinary lives. It fools our senses into believing we are in a different location. This idea has intrigued people to push the boundaries of VR to create new innovative ideas.
Before VR was invented Edwin link had invented the Link trainer also known as the “Blue Box” in 1929. This early flight stimulator was handy in military use. It was used by new pilots to teach them how to fly by instruments in a safe way.
This early invention had no visual representation of a virtual world within this simulator, but the pilot would be enclosed in the cockpit and would be shut down from reality. It also accurately represented being in the cockpit of a plane. The simulator used artificial motion to create a realistic experience.
Link trainers were useful before and during the second world war. This itself was an early sign to show how handy stimulation could be. It would allow people to train within a ‘virtual reality’ without causing any damage until they were trained properly.
Rules Of Perspective
Before the ideas of an immersive experience, there were ‘virtual spatial images’ which formed the ‘media of illusion’. The illusionistic perspective of Andrea Pozzo’s trompe-l’oeil dome at Sant’Ignazio (1685), is a good example of this. Pozzo’s illusionistic dome is in fact painted on the flat ceiling, however when the observer stands in a specific position the painting appears to be a vaulted roof.
Immersion and engagement are both part of a virtual reality experience. Artists such as Mike Nelson creates convincing worlds almost like a virtual world. His installations get his audience to question the space they’re in. Some of his installations are so immersive, you can no longer tell whether it is part of his work or not.