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.
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.