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Creative VR Futures: Creative Arts & Sciences in Virtual Environments, Salford

02005/07/22-23: This two day event organised by Paul Sermon was part of the Futuresonic Festival (please correct me if i am wrong) and took place at two different locations: Salford University's School of Art & Design (Day 1) and The Centre for Virtual Environments (Day 2) where David Roberts and students took over and gave us a thorough and insightful tour into their work (with miraculous patience, i may add). A special thanks to the students who invested their Saturday!

From the brochure: "A two day symposium for professional artists, designers and creative practitioners offering a range of artistic presentations, demonstrations and hands-on experience of current immersive and augmented virtual environment research. The event will take an in depth look into the current artistic applications and developments of virtual/mixed reality, ranging from telepresent networking, tele-immersion and collaborative VR interaction to both painted and virtual urban landscapes and panoramas."

School of Art & Design, Day One:

Speakers were Horst Hoertner, Anthony Steed, Steve Benford, Ben Johnson, Maurice Benayoun, Monika Fleischmann & Wolfgang Strauss, David Roberts and Paul Sermon.

Horst Hoertner started the presentations after an introduction by Paul Sermon. He gave a quick overview with past "Ars Electronica Futurelab" projects as "Urban Interventions" and "interactive architecture" projected onto the outside of the Ars Electronica building and Golan Levin's augmented voice-to-visual "noodles."
Horst emphasised the point that the interaction design in an interactive environment requires a lot of know-how that often tech-people, usability people and scientist do not have.
An in my opinion interesting approach was taken with "Gullivers World," a story-telling environment where tangible boxes are used to introduce characters into a game narrative. The translucent boxes are kept on a shelf near to the playing board and the characters they contain are projected into them from behind. Once the box is placed onto the game field the character is "released" and becomes part of the game. It is also possible to add oneself as a character to the game. I think this manual activity of adding a character from a wider variety of possibilities is a good example of mixing virtual and physical interface elements increasing the experience of involvement and presence for participants.
"Apparition" is an environment for dancers on a stage. The background is a rear projection, costumes are projected onto the costumes from the front in real time. This set-up avoids the distinct cast of a shadow onto the architecture as in "The Jew of Malta" done by art+com, but allows only a limited complexity of possible architectures.
Their website documents the projects at
Unfortunately his visuals were in German so the mostly English speaking audience had some difficulties following the presentation.

Anthony Steed presented UCL's stage of collaborative telepresence research and introduced their stance on "presence" research in immersive interactive environments. Anthony emphasised how difficult it was to measure "presence" but that observation was in some particular cases a very good method to capture it. One example was a virtual "hole" in the floor of a cave that many people instinctively avoided. Their data included skin-conductivity level measurements and frequency of heart beat rate. Participants confronted with the hole-in-the-ground reacted measurably. Anthony's groups main task is to find objective measures of presence and their methods include "Breaks in Presence" or BIPS where either drop out of the state of immersion or the state of attention are counted.

Steve Benford from Nottingham presented the current stage of their research into games, performance and mixed realities e.g. "Uncle Roy." A person with a GPS / handheld device is guided/followed through an urban setting by a remote "leader" who gives instructions. The game has different goals that have to be achieved in a limited time. One of their insights gained is to use the imprecision or drop-outs of the GPS as a beneficial "uncertainty" factor. Once again a very clear and excellent presentation.

Maurice Benayoun presented a wide variety of projects. His presentation was structured in an interesting way around key concepts that show up in his work. They reached from the ironic frozen feeling objects called "World Emotional Mapping" to their vast installation "World Skin" where the gaze through a telescope like device successively reveals panoramic views of cities. And currently also includes exhibitions concerning city planning and sustainability.
Some of the concepts were:
Infra-realism: Something behind that justifies the way things are.
real-time: We don't design - we change the world because we exist.
virtuality: The virtual is a property of the real. The required condition of the plasticity of the real.
The door: Renaissance invented the window - we the door. Which raises the question: Do we go out or do we go in? What does it mean to go in?
Difference: To live in the physical world. To watch - printing. To play (the game) - to pretend to be.
Intentionality: Visiting is reading.
Illusion: Participants are NOT co-authors of the work. The virtual is the very matter of interrogation. See also Poetics and Politics.
Critical Fusion: Help to understand the world better. A fusion of fiction and reality.
Maurices approach is sophisticated, philosophical, reflective and critical which is not easily been seen in the objects themselves.

There was still more going on, but i have no time to continue this text.

Ben Johnson:

The Centre for Virtual Environments, Day Two:

David Roberts and students gave us guided tours through the Centre for Virtual Environments.

We explored the Panorama-room, a workbench, a CAVE, a virtual drumset. Monika Fleischmann critisised rightly that VR was still making the same promisses it made ten years ago; that this where only "test setups" and that surgeons could practice operations, scientists could remote control a robot. As if nothing had happened during the last decade.

Nevertheless it was a very intruiging insight into the work of the Centre for Virtual Environments at Salford University. Thanks to the students who invested their precious weekend!

Two amazing days of presentations and discussions:
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last update: 8/11/02013 22:26

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