LJMU Immersive Research 2

Article / 15 November 2020

It has been some time since my first posting on this Masters, and in that time we have learned a lot about what it means to be a working artist within the field of immersive. Some of the main topics we have covered have ranged from technical skills such as projection mapping, 360 videos, and Unreal engine to more nebulous ideas such as the art of storytelling itself.

I like to keep my options open and explore every avenue so this will be a more broad net of what I've been looking at. I want to focus on something specific later on.

With the tools and techniques presented to me, I have been performing small experiments to get to grips with the work.
I will start with my research and show experiments towards the end. 

1 Research

this section will outline my main points of research including video links and my general opinion in terms of their application within the field. 

1.1 Projection Mapping

2019 ST Raphael - Projection map- Mathieu Martin 

Projection appeals to me as it holds great power for relatively old technology. It can be completely transformative to spaces, architecture, and objects.

I have a couple of main points of reference when it comes to projecting images, first is this amazing interactive piece that calculates the height of the sand in a sandpit and projects map topology accordingly. The illusion holds up really well. I like the sand being a medium between the digital and the physical.

Similarly, this topological projection was achieved by another group. This time, however, the end was not educational, but retail-focused. It hones in on the idea of "retail therapy" creating an immersive experience from the rather mundane task of purchasing footwear. It brings to mind a future where your retail outlet becomes something more like a gaming experience.

I like these two videos specifically as they show how a simple idea such as topographical lines may turn something physical into an interactive experience. 

1.2 VR/360 Video

VR Station - Digital Painting - Simon Stålenhag
360 and VR both face similar challenges in the direction of a viewer's attention. VR thankfully has years of game theory to fall back on, 360-degree 3D environments are no new concept to the world of game design. This too can link back to 360 videos, the direction of a viewer's gaze is highly important. a great article about how to do this can be found here https://uploadvr.com/vr-film-tips-guiding-attention/

For me 360 VR is certainly something I would like to see more of in the future, however, I'd like to avoid them for this project. my biggest concern with it is hygiene during the most hygiene conscious time of recent history. I simply don't think a headset is a viable solution to an art installation. Even without the hygiene concerns, I would like to avoid an experience the viewer can have at home.

That being said, I do see a future in commercial VR products. Not only does it lean on pre-existing game design ideas, but in a way, it expands the user's living space virtually anywhere imaginable.

1.3 AR/MR

AR and MR are very exciting to me for an admittedly very childish reason. Namely that it's the closest thing to a hologram we have, and with new advancements in Machine sight, it's more accessible than it's ever been. my primary experiments in this field have involved SparkAR as well as Adobe's new product by the name of Adobe Aero.
I watched some talks at the adobe max conference involving Aero and was frankly blown away by how easy the whole thing was. just assemble your scene and triggers similar to any other 3D software (even simpler in some ways) and save it out and boom, it's on your phone blending with reality. 
More recently I caught a SparkAR talk by the artist collective Keiken named World-building and merging the physical and digital. the talk was very new-age, trippy, challenging of gender roles, and overall something you'd expect to see on Adult Swim at 2 AM. jolly good stuff. they did something that kind of spoke to me.
 They posed the idea of using face filters and MR as a means of world-building. The more you think about it, our digital personas are a world-building exercise, if not world-building then at the very least world-augmenting.
We use filters, selective opinion voicing, selective angles, lighting, moments, and overall decision-making to project our most ideal selves outwards. With the advancement of face filters getting to the point where we can physically sculpt ourselves to any ideal shape imaginable, it's not hard to see a trend of our real-world selves growing ever further from our virtual counterparts. What's interesting about Keiken is that they have taken this and almost turned it into an intentional expressive piece of reality distortion to the point where it becomes fantasy. 
Simple sparkAR example 

With these various talks I have been watching, the general idea I'm getting is that companies are most excited about AR and the possible ways it may enhance our experience in the world. VR still has a ways to go and Projection almost feels low tech in comparison to what you can do with a virtual lens. It not only has the potential to completely alter our view of the reality we physically occupy, but it has all sorts of applications in education, entertainment, fashion, gaming and so on. 

1.4 Web

I will briefly touch on the web as it is a sadly underappreciated facet of the world of XR. What benefits the web the most is accessibility. Most people don't want to install an app, or oftentimes even go anywhere to access the content. The web has you covered, and with CSS and JavaScript being probably some of the easiest coding languages out there, it's amazing as a tool for artistic expression. net.art and ARGs (fake conspiracies made up to send players down online rabbit holes, often just used as marketing for an external product) have been prevalent for many years and new developments in 3D web tools have only enhanced this growth. while I could name many such experiences, I think my favorite of recent memory has been this accidental game created from a virtual tour of a house.
8800 Blue Lick Road, from what I have found with proxies to American news sites, was once home to a mafia fencing racket. Boxes were stolen, presumably from trucks and warehouses, and stored here. The owners were incarcerated for their actions, and their home was put on the market without removing the stolen goods. What's even more interesting is that they sent someone in with a 3D camera to take a tour of this labyrinthine property. Apparently, it was an old Baptist church so some oddities in the layout are present, such as a strange walk-in shower room, presumably used for baptism.

The experience, in the end, is a truly unique and unintentionally fascinating narrative of how the criminal underworld live.

2 Experiments

This is a collection of my various experiments in XR including 360 videos, photogrammetry, AR, and rear projection. My trademark wide range of unfocused experiments hopefully will help out with future ideas. I think of all the subjects I have covered, the augmented reality side shouts to me the most so hopefully more experiments within this can come out in the future.


LJMU Immersive Arts Research Post 1

Article / 29 September 2020

Today marks the end of the first week of lectures in Immersive arts. we have been instructed to start a research blog to document our journey through what we find interesting within the field, hopefully leading to a final project that ties into the research.

I'll start by laying out what in my understanding of what constitutes an Immersive work of art. To me, an immersive artwork would be one that the viewer feels a part of, a direct influencer on the outcome or journey witnessed within the work. To this end I would categorize most forms of play as an immersive experience, however, the "art" would be in the medium.

 I wouldn't necceserally consider a game of football as an immersive artwork, however, a game of FIFA 2020 might be. In the opposite direction, I wouldn't consider the dreadful 2000 Film "Dungeons and Dragons" to be an immersive artwork, however, the tabletop counterpart, involving characters created by the players and lead on a story through the world of Dungeons and Dragons by a host to indeed be an immersive art. It involves an often improvised narrative given a sense of immersion through the player's imagination and our joint desire to tell stories. No two games are alike, It's totally dependant on every person in the room and their unique goals, senses of humor, and overall personalities.

But art exists outside some dude's basement. the dungeon master can't be present for every patron's visit to the Tate, so what about works that are always accessible yet provide the same sense of taking part? 

Allow me to introduce AI Dungeon; a game that uses artificial intelligence to create a narrative similar to how a human Dungeon Master would. Presentation-wise, it's basically a text-based adventure game, however, instead of being hit with an "I don't understand that" when presented with unfamiliar verbiage, the system tries its best to adapt to whatever is said. It also doesn't have a predefined structure, instead, it just tries to learn and alter the course of the story based on its database. 

Naturally with the nature of AI, there are some certain discrepancies with the logic, like how the diplomats get away from the player character in the carriage that he is hiding in. This doesn't really ruin the overall experience, however, something about a world in which anything you can imagine can happen is so appealing to us as humans that the dodgy AI and the text-based limitations kind of melt away into almost an imagination assistant.

Another important facet of Immersive art and storytelling is the technological group known as XR. this incorporates VR MR and AR, technologies that in some way try to fool our perceptions of reality to incorporate some digital element. The viewer is immersed in the art as their mind perceives the digital to be real. This blending of the digital world and the real world is becoming more and more prevalent and is most commonly found in apps on our phones, VR headsets in our games, and displays in our everyday life.

During my research before this course, I found out about a technique known as Pepper's Ghost. To explain it simply, shadows do not reflect as they are not the result of a ray, they are the absence of light rays. Light does reflect and bounces around freely, therefore a "hologram" display can be made with a projector and a plane of glass or reflective transparent plastic.

This is what we saw at the 2012 Coachella performance featuring Tupac and Snoop Dogg on the same stage 16 years after Tupac's death. 

I found this so interesting that I ordered a cheap little plastic pyramid you can attach to your phone and created this in after effects using 4 photos of an anatomically correct skull for medical students I just happen to own for totally non-creepy reasons

A recent example of this sort of fake hologram that I can think of occurred when I left Leicester and me and my friends spent my last day there at the National Space Center. Of all the crazy interesting stuff going on there, there were some really cool hologram displays that caught my eye. they can be seen here. I found this fascinating and whats worse is I have no idea how this works. I couldn't find a projector anywhere and I spent around 10 minutes looking. What's so cool about it to me is how it brings home the space age while actually functionally depicting how these tools work with the animations.

One thing I have been thinking about doing as a final project is something to do with a "smart mirror", basically these mirrors people build from special one way mirrored materials that have a built-in display hooked up to a raspberry PI. The idea is the first thing you see in the morning when you brush your teeth is now also a display for all sorts of useful information. I think it would be cool to combine this sort of technology with an XBOX Kinect to create these virtual 3D spaces within a mirror. It could be a great format for a story about the modern age of digital vanity.

Hopefully, this gives a solid idea of what I know and find interesting, I hope for this course to teach me the necessary tools to get really creative within this field.



some more cool stuff