Tagged: Augmented Reality

Anti-Social / Lonely VR

Virtual Reality has been presumed as the next big thing in tech for some time. I’ve followed this for a few years now, and continue to be an advocate and enthusiast of its production, success and use as an artistic medium. However, I understand the problems that it faces. Firstly, I still dont have my own headset at home, but I did buy a suitable PC. That purchase alone will continue to haunt me for the foreseeable future, and I’m only half way to being able to truly consume the technology…. It’s too expensive. When you essentially need a mortgage to enjoy a new technology, maybe its not quite there yet as a commercial endeavour.

The next foul issue is the importance of social interaction in industry leading games and experiences. VR is immersive yet lonely. Most indie developers aren’t yet comfortable enough to produce realistic or believable people in VR. This means that most of the experimental experiences you can see are desolate. Some of the bigger productions, and 360 films do have this element, however, as talked about in a previous post, there is not yet a possibility of interaction. This interaction, that we experience from social media has the potential to bring a new lease of life to an industry that has seemed as if its going to explode for a few years now. Hopefully VRs failure from the 80s isn’t about to reproduce itself.

vrlonely-1200x630-cAntipossible that we can be selectively aware of those around us in a space such as a tube carriage? Really, we only need to know, when to get off, out the way, if someone is pick pocketing or groping us, or god forbid, there is a rampant killer on the loose (by this, I really mean any significant emergency). Other than that I’d be happy to watch a bit of Netflix or read a few articles on my commute into the city on a virtual beach, on a screen the size of a bus without having to bend my neck for prolonged periods of time.


Automated cars hope to feed off each others data. Potentially allowing a car to think again before taking a turn, as a message has passed through the cars, that a serious road accident ahead has just occurred that will create significant congestion. Another potential use of this information sharing, is keeping each car on the road aware of cyclists. Can our smartphones use such a system? Information sharing and Cybersecurity is a terrifying and sobering truth of the Digital age. Its prevalence could threaten the growth of our internet and technology use. For this sort of everyday information / awareness sharing to take place, we need to be more comfortable with the security that’s in place, and the horror stories of hacking will need to be fairy-tales of the past. Unfortunately the likelihood is that they’ll get worse the more we rely on the tech. Hypothetically, if everyday VR headsets were to become a thing, with a reactive system that pokes the user to avoid collision or other interactions in reality, we’re all one step further to becoming lonely cyborgs…

Part of me (the tech enthusiast) says bring on the everyday headset, the other part (an actual human being)  wants to restore my old Nokia and move to mid Wales. Realistically, VR may be too immersive and its use may be kept for very specific applications, experiences and industries. However, Augmented and Mixed Reality systems could provide the digital use we crave and the social IRL interaction we need as well as giving our necks a break. As mentioned from Portland, augmented reality isn’t even close yet but lets give its progression a chance. We might all be lonely otherwise. Happy Valentines Day +1.


AR/VR: Sentient

The work I produced focused on the homeless issue in Portland, and I guess, in a larger context, the issue along the West Coast. I’m a snap happy photographer with a mentality that rarely stops me from taking a photo, no matter the scene. Whether taking the photo is correct or not isn’t my interest, it’s the use of those photos that’s important. Maybe it’s terrible to use photographs of others without their permission under self-defined artwork… I never intend to use a photograph maliciously or perversely but instead as documentation. ‘Sentient’ was a chance photograph of a man on SW Ankeney Street, outside Bailey’s Taproom. Quite bizarrely, there are weathered pieces of cardboard, and a leftover sign in almost the exact spot on Google Street View. I took the photo on my first day in Portland (Election Day 2016). The man asked me for $5 and I could take a photo. I took the photo but the settings were wrong and it appeared too dark on the screen. I asked to take another, and he asked for another $5. At this point both himself and I were getting angry at each other. He tried to grab the camera, threatening to break it, and I walked off in frustration without giving him the money. That night, I look at it on my laptop, turn up the exposure, and to my bittersweet disappointment, it was a good photo. I felt terrible that I hadn’t paid him and for the following few days looked around for him just in case. 4 or 5 days later, I had some dinner at a food stand on the corner of SW Washington & 10th Ave, and lo and behold he is in front of me asking for a free meal. So I paid off my debt by buying him dinner, told him he looked great in the photo and I was going to use it for an artwork. He remembered me and appreciated that I paid off the debt! I was lucky.

From then on, I was interested in creating a scattered mesh of the photograph that was only viewable if you were to sit on the floor in the same position as the man. It’s a simple concept, the viewer has to go down to his level to sympathise with his situation. I drew the photograph into stencil-esque block shapes and by importing an .svg file into Blender and extruding the faces I created a 3D representation of the man. From here I focused on the idea of the mesh shedding into a murmuration in the Oculus but the result was inferior. (The best part of this experiment was playing with the powerful Unity particle system with Philippe.)

Luckily, in the last two days, Thomas twisted my arm into focusing on the Hololens. Philippe and Thomas managed to create an algorithm for the perspective of the mesh to work perfectly when the headset aligns with the segments. This took a number of attempts, but with around 2 minutes to go on the final day, Thomas managed to get the experiment to pull through. It wasn’t as expected, in terms of the necessity to get on the ground to view him but I was amazed with what Thomas and Philippe had been able to do. It was a very well executed collaborative project and I had no chance of achieving it without them. It seems that the final piece forces the user to make an effort to see the figure. I’m sure without prompt, many users will just walk around the shards, disinterested. I would love to see its outcome in a gallery setting.

If I was to take the piece further, the mesh needs cleaning up, texturing and I’d love to
somehow add a geotag to the location I found him. This would allow people to wander past
and see the sculpture in AR.