VR/AR Favours Subtle Experiences
VR can be very immersive. So immersive in fact that it doesn’t work particularly well in very fast-paced or action-packed experiences. As an example, jumping into a first-person shooting game might even be too real and thereby too scary.
VR is a deeper, more penetrating medium.
VR is strong in recreating subtle experiences. It turns out that when we are fully immersed, we start focusing on the small and the delicate. We pause to explore the startling details. Previously unseen connections emerge.
Notes on blindness is an ingenious VR experience that recreates the world of John Hull, a British academic who kept a journal as he was losing his sight.
We are taken on a journey through the day of a blind person. John Hull, who has lost his sight, manages to tell what a park “looks” or how rainfall or wind can bring a landscape alive for the blind person. It’s a beautiful example of how you can learn to appreciate subtle experiences through VR.
Virtual Reality has been called the “last medium”. It strives to re-create reality as we experience it. It doesn’t stop and say: this represantation of reality is good enough to be credible. The objective of VR is to incorporate all senses and take all disbelief away.
But we’re still far away from the point where VR experiences are indistinguishable from the real thing — the person in front of me in the kayak might look very real but the character will not respond as we expect if we talk to her. Very powerful AI will have to be developed to keep the illusion alive.
The current state of VR is more adept at allowing us to enter new kinds of realities. A VR experience might for instance remove gravity, letting you float around in space. Or you might be able to pick up a hard, solid object and bend it or melt it in your hands. VR has the capacity to expand reality, as art always did.
Dive into Salvador Dalí’s painting Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s “Angelus”
The Dalí museum in Florida has created a virtual reality (VR) experience that allows you to enter a painting of Salvador Dalí. It’s called Dreams of Dalí.
For a period of five minutes, you can be inside one of Dalís paintings, explore it’s haunting details at close range. It’s fascinating to think what Dalí himself would have thought of it.
VR and AR at Museums
How will museums and galleries use VR? Can we imagine walking into the Louvre with our VR headset and experience the entire museum from our living room. Or perhaps wear a Hololens-style augmented reality headset that enrichens the Louvre-experience in different ways.
These “virtual art tours” are easy to grasp and may offer interesting curated art experiences. But experiencing only traditional art through VR would be a very limited and simplistic use of VR for museums. It reminds of how early TV broadcasters imagined TV: the live picture of a radio-announcer being broadcasted on television.
Art Museums are likely to find more fertile ground in exhibiting artwork that is made for mixed reality from ground up.
Virtual Reality Art
The New Museum in New York has comissioned a VR installation from Rio de Janeiro-based Daniel Steegmann Mangrané. The installation is called Phantom and it transports museum-goers to the rapidly disappearing rainforest in Brazil.
A scene from Artist Daniel Steegmann Mangrané’s Virtual Reality installation Phantom
Mangrané installation is based on detailed 3D scans of the Mata Atlântica rainforest. Visitors can explore them in startling detail as they move throughout the exhibition space.
By supplementing the Oculus Rift with motion capture, the installation extends beyond the standard capacities of the Oculus system, offering a far more immersive viewing. It’s a good example of how a VR experience can be significantly enhanced in a museum environment.
Today, standard VR allows us to create experiences that use vision and sound. The most advanced systems such as the HTC Vive also offer motion capture and hand controls.
But our sensory system is of course much richer. What if we could bring touch, smell, temperature, sense of wind, vibrations or taste into the art experience?
Imagine stepping into an exhibition space that features a VR experience of a sunset by the sea. The visual and audible experience that you get through your VR headset would be impressive. But what if that experience was further enhanced by the smell of the sea, wind and a change in temperature?
Museums as Spaces for Learning
It’s fascinating to think of what kind of creative and learning spaces could be set up in museums and galleries. The possibilities of physical space, the framing, the scenography and the human resources are unique in a museum.
The Science Museum in London presented an astounding mixed reality experiences about climate change.
Art museums that embrace opportunities that VR offers, are likely to flourish. VR and mixed reality is a new frontier in art, creativity and learning.
Producing Art in VR and AR
Amazing tools for creativity in VR are now in development. One of the first tools is called Tilt Brush, made for the HTC Vive system. It let’s anyone draw and paint in three dimensions, using hand controllers as paintbrushes.
Children are likely to embrace these creative tools quickly. Children’s play and games are arguably an advanced form of virtual reality in themselves. It will be fascinating to watch how children play and create inside VR.
Like traditional play, VR allows co-creation — several persons can be in the same VR space simultaneously, playing and creating with each other. The Toybox Demo for the Oculus Touch is an early proof-0f-concept of this kind of play.
The possibilities of physical space, the framing, the scenography and the human resources are unique in a museum. It’s fascinating to think of what kind of creative and learning spaces we will be able to experience in museums and galleries.