Five day VRaycation

I spent five full days over New Year’s playing with an HTC Vive. Which is interesting in NYC apartment, since half the furniture had to be moved to make room for the motion tracking units mounted on two spindly tripods! As an artist as well as a tech enthusiast, it was an interesting experience. So much to try out.

I have a book’s worth of impressions and opinions coming out of the experience, but quickly – my favorite: hands down, Blortasia by Kevin Mack, a neuroscientist and artist. It’s a psychedelic drift through an ever changing, pulsing, organic color blitz. Absolutely, mind bogglingly, surreally, beautiful. I love that he’s not adapting something to fit into VR, he’s actually designing something for the medium; one of the few, I think, who “gets” it.

His work is inspired by transcendent visions, nature, and technology, and is informed by research in a wide range of fields from neuroscience to artificial life. Not to mention, I’m guessing it’s a lot like taking mushrooms! Blortasia is being used in therapy and it’s effects are the subject of a medical research study. Now *that’s* a use for VR I can get behind.

The other favorite was (of course – as an artist): Tiltbrush. But I wasn’t as in love with it as I should have been….it’s purely a paint stroke program (I called it “the MS Paint of VR”) and I really missed being able to create actual solid objects. Perhaps a hangover from my CAD roots – nevertheless, I persisted, and determined to grok the program as best possible, after a while realized how to get the most out of it (hint: don’t try to be precise).

Tiltbrush: “Garden of Eden”

Here’s a glimpse of one of the worlds I created – a flock of beautiful glowing birds. I made another with huge pulsating jellyfish hanging from the sky, so you could stand in between the tentacles; that one’s for another day.

That book-length blog post is coming, about everything from the experience to the content, user interface to opportunities – just wanted to jot down some initial thoughts to start.

Reality, Virtually Hackathon

So stoked….I am going up to MIT Media Lab‘s all day workshop this Saturday, to learn about programming in Augmented and Virtual Reality as part of their Reality, Virtually Hackathon…while I freely admit that a portion of the nitty gritty programming will undoubtedly be over my head, I’m going to get a crash course and overview of the essential process, by all the companies who are the big players in the space.

I’m well chuffed, as they say in the UK.

Companies presenting include Unity, the programming language used to create both Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality; Microsoft – who is involved because of the Hololens; Google’s Tango, which is technology that helps devices understand where they are spatially, and in the world , and others.

Here’s the full agenda. Don’t fall asleep 😉

Swimming with the fishes

Using the HTC Vive: note, this is not me.
Using the HTC Vive: note, this is not me.

Went exploring an underwater shipwreck with an HTC Vive tonight, complete with schools of fish, sun rays through the water, jellyfish and a huge whale swimming up to me. Was a full room VR demo – I had an 8×8 space to walk around in. What fun! It felt amazingly real from the get go – and boy did the “real” room seem drab after being submerged in a hyper colored world.

The sunlight piercing the water above me was perfectly rendered through virtual waves – it really was just like being about 50 feet underwater, standing on the deck of a sunken ship.

I had fun trying to “poke” the jellyfish that was swimming a little too close to my head for comfort (you *know* it’s virtual…but it’s hard to remember) and it backed off from my hand every time. I’m sure that’s how the developers are dealing with the fact that although I can see it, and walk through it, there’s no real physics going on: I can’t feel any interaction. Although, as per one of my previous posts…there are a multitude of companies working creating physical weight surface interaction in VR.

When VR does get to the point where you are able to reproduce physical interaction, I’m not sure why you’d want to leave to be honest. The world is prettier, brighter, programmable – much better than reality. It feels remarkably similar to what I felt like after watching avatar back in 2011, only better.

No pics of me flailing about in public with the headset on. Probably for the best.

Would love to try this game. I’m not much of a gamer but I think I could be convinced with Virtual Reality. It looks eminently hyper realistic, and if even close to the experience I had with the fishes – a joy to get lost in.

This looks like fun

Looks like a great Game! It’s called Mindshow – it’s a VR game that’s multiplayer and recordable, so you can share the experience.

Those are both things that are currently not really the case in VR – most are only you in the world, and not shareable. So this is a leap forward. Definitely more fun as a game if you can play against someone in the same world!

Now it’s just waiting for 1) a way to “feel” interaction (pressure suits anyone?) and 2) move without 3) throwing up. Don’t worry, there are lots of companies working on solving all three of these things. Pretty soon we’ll never have to actually be in reality again.

 

Princess Leia calling

Have to do a bit more poking around to see how much of this is actually currently working, and how much is “concept” / for the video, but it certainly would be huge! Reminds me of Princess Leia’s hologram in the original Star Wars. Imagine how this would revolutionize business; no more traveling.

Excuses for mixing my science fiction metaphors, but Holodeck anyone?!