Friday, January 26, 2018

VR & Museums of the future

Happy January of 2017!

Last night I was part of a gallery exhibit -- my first time displaying at a museum.  Only this museum was populated by all sorts of physically impossible artwork, and wandering through the halls were people from around the globe.  By that I mean people who were at that time located on different continents.  And it was awesome.

MOR January sneak peek from joe daniels on Vimeo.

This museum is a virtual museum, experienced in my Oculus Rift. (Also works with Vive).  It takes the enjoyment of viewing art to the next level and makes it possible to interact with artwork, creators, and other viewers in completely new ways.

I can't say much specifically about the museum since it's in Beta and much is likely to change and improve between now and when the museum opens to the public, but I will say that it takes all of my favorite things about being in a museum space and adds sight and sound experiences to that which are impossible outside of Virtual Reality.

 There is an impressive list of artists already on exhibit, and it was an honor to hang out with some of them and chat...whether standing inside a Tilt Brush painting or sitting on the back of a dinosaur that was painted in Oculus Quill.  Here's a short list of exhibitors who were featured this month: Liz Edwards, Nick Ladd, Zach Kinstner, Romain Revert, and Sebastian Sanabria(If I forgot anyone, please comment and I'll update.)   My contribution was an animated piece Fast Food, which features a small fish endlessly attempting to swim away from a rather cuddly-looking hammerhead shark.  If you check it out, there are some hidden things to find inside the shark ;)

Another thing that is really cool about this type of museum is the direct promotion that can be gained for the artist.  For instance, Zach's musical exhibit is a performance created in his app, EXA: The Infinite Instrument.  From the info plaque, I could learn about it and immediately hop over to the Steam Store to pick it up and check it experience more of the same thing, on my own time and financially benefit the creator directly.  EXA is a lot of fun, and I highly recommend you check it out if you have a pc vr headset.

Here's what really interested me personally: viewing animation, on display in a museum, in its native format.  Let's think about that for a minute.  Up until now the ways one can view animation have been greatly limited, compared to other art forms.  Theater, dance, sculpture, and other fine and performing arts are best viewed when physically present with the art.  3D models can be printed to be brought into a dimensional world for viewing but until recently there was no reasonable analog for 3D animation.

Aside from exhibits like the Pixar Zoetrope and this Gatorade ad, animation is recorded or rendered for display on a flat surface.  Even in stereoscopic 3D theatrical experiences, you're cheating the brain into thinking a 2D image has depth but the viewer lacks the freedom to move in and around the space, and is only slightly immersive.  Animation is the art of creating the illusion of life, and wouldn't it be great to pull our characters off a flat screen and into our living rooms?

My hand-drawn animation was drawn in VR in three dimensions, and viewers get to experience this art in the exact same context as it was created.  The equivalent in traditional animation would be mailing tens of thousands of sheets of paper to a viewer for them to flip like a flipbook, or in stop-motion it would be inviting the entire world onto a set to watch for days as puppets are meticulously posed frame by frame, but both of these impractical scenarios miss the mark by lacking the immersive connection you gain with the virtual characters you can experience in VR.  In VR you're there, existing with these illusions, in real-time.  And once you experience that, I think you'll feel that it makes a world of difference.

Another thing that excites me about all this is that next logical step: the possibility of creating interactive character animation experiences where our characters react to you and not just you reacting to them.  This dream is only a few steps from reality, and it's gonna be huge.  Stay tuned for more virtual animation, coming soon.

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