There have been lots of exciting new projects and class assignments happening with VR (virtual reality) at Lawrence University! Take a look at the recent Lawrence University News post, “Use of VR tech now reality in classrooms; FaCE grant to ramp up pace” to learn all about them!
By Nijes Uparati
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are buzzwords these days; literally every magazine and newspaper has articles boasting the AR/VR craze. But where do we really stand on the AR/VR development? What are its implications? And what sort of applications should we really seek? These are questions troubling the scientists and developers alike who delve deeper into their disciplines to invent and design technologies that are on par with current technological needs.
Just as a brief overview: VR is a interactive technology generated within a simulated environment that embraces the elements of real world but limits interactions within the digital. AR on the other hand is a technology that allows the augmentation of our everyday interaction with real world with various sensory modalities such haptics, auditory or visual. We are going to alternate between both technological sides to post mixed finding on the subject matter.
How is the art world benefited by the recent advances in VR/AR technology?
Recently a digital museum opened in Tokyo, Japan. This museum is a collaborative work of individuals from various disciplines including computer science, art, and human-computer interaction to name a few. The museum, hosted in a space of 10,000 square meter, is operated by using the about 520 computers and 470 projectors working in sync to create amazing visual experience for the visitors.
VR as an Art Medium
Recent advances in VR technology has paved ways for exploring the art domain with mediums that are far from the traditional. One such technological breakthrough is the idea of art in 3D digital space. Google’s Tilt brush technology combined with commercially available VR headsets like HTC VIVE and OCULUS RIFT could equip artists with an entirely new way to explore the art world.
We’ve had lots of interesting uses of our makerspace by Studio Art students for both senior exhibits and assignments. Here are some examples:
Penn Ryan ’18 spent a lot of time in the makerspace meticulously designing and 3D printing stairs for his piece, “Quantified Actualization”. The top part of this piece was designed using a 3D scan of his face, scanned and printed in the makerspace. In his artist statement, he describes this work as a commentary on fitness tracking,
…”This staircase is the combined product of 5 months of tracking. Fitness tracking is often an obsessive practice. Quantifying one’s accomplishments gives someone a feeling of control over their body. Users feel that technology can give them insights into how well they are taking care of their body and therefore meeting their goals. These goals are often initially physical but become mental and occupational and all encompassing. Whether or not one is striving for improvement and accomplishing it becomes a moral judgement. Self-actualization is the ultimate goal.”
More photos, and a complete artist statement can be found in the 2018 Senior Exhibit Gallery.
Alison Smith ’17 created an installation that spread across the exterior of the Wriston Art Center and inside the senior gallery exhibit. Alison used vinyl decals to create 8-bit video game inspired art scenes, as well as used the Silhouette cutter to create paper items and treasures, also inspired by video games. Her statement explains, “this installation gives physical forms to video game objects and environments in order to change the way we interact with them through the completion of a real-life, video game inspired quest.”
More photos of installation of The Lost Man’s Fortune can be found in the 2017 Senior Exhibit Gallery.
Noah Gunther ’17 used the makerspace to 3D print objects for both his junior show and senior show. In both, he created virtual worlds, and brought the virtual to physical using the 3D printers. For his senior show, he integrated a virtual reality headset to let the viewer further immerse themselves in the world he created. We asked Noah to tell us a little about using 3D printers as an artist- here’s what he had to say,
“…I’ve been interested in the intersection of what we think of as “real life” and the world of computer simulation for a long time. Having access to 3D printers has been an excellent way for me to explore this connection — I build 3D models on the computer, which I then add to a computer simulation where a user can virtually interact with them. I then also 3d print the models in the same colors I display the virtual models, allowing for a direct connection between the virtual objects and the 3D printed ones. Being able to 3D print these items allows me to explore the connection between virtual and real interaction in a way I otherwise wouldn’t be able to!”
Aedan R. Gardill ’18 painted a series of African American women inventors and innovators and created representational installations to accompany each painting. For Alice Parker, Aedan used the Silhouette cutter to create a vinyl display to represent her contributions to modern thermostats. He describes his series of paintings and installations as, “Sharing the stories of these women and increasing the visual representation of non-male, non-white scientists is a step forward to changing the negative cultural perspective of women in the sciences.”
More selections from the installation, Innovating a Legacy can be found in the 2018 Senior Exhibit Gallery.
Nina Sultan ’17 included interviews by portrait subjects with her paintings on display for her senior show. The interviews were played on iPads on loan from the makerspace. In her artist statement, Nina describes her works as, “Inspired by people from the Appleton community, through painting, photography, and audio documentation, the work seeks to create thoughtful narratives to unmask, appreciate, and better understand our personal connections on a deeper level.”
More photos of the installation can be found in the 2017 Senior Exhibit Gallery.
Speaking of these many student shows in the Wriston Galleries, gallery curators uses the makerspace’s Silhouette Cameo electronic cutter to create titles for their exhibits. It saves a great deal of money compared to requesting to have them made by an outside sign shop.
Many other students have used the makerspace tools and equipment for projects related to art course assignments. Here are just a few:
Sara Morrison ’18 created a series of word art that she displayed around campus for her New Media in Art assignment. She used the 3D printer and electronic cutter to create letters from PLA filament and vinyl.
Sara encouraged members of the Lawrence University community to take photos of the word art (as she left it, and as it had been changed by others) and post them to her Tumblr page, LU Word Art.
Malcolm Lunn-Craft ’17 used the electronic cutter to create stencils for his painting class. The adhesive vinyl helped with his assignment medium of spray paint.
While not created in the makerspace, Malcolm’s powerful photographs from his senior exhibit are available to view in the 2017 Senior Exhibit Gallery (content warning: visual allusion to violence).
To gain a better understanding of life in a refugee camp, Professor Lavanya Proctor brought her Anthropology of South Asia students to the makerspace to experience a virtual reality video. The video entitled, I Am Rohingya, follows a woman named Jamalida as she walks through the refugee camp in which her family lives. The following is the description on Vimeo:
In this immersive VR film by Contrast VR and AJ+, ride with Jamalida around the crowded camp, accompany her inside her tiny home, sit down in the narrow streets with her sons as they play and feel what’s it like to be a refugee stranded in a foreign land.
Prior to coming to the makerspace, students were instructed to download the Vimeo app on their smartphones. Additional smartphones were provided in case students did not have their own. Cardboard VR headsets provided a low-cost, and low-tech way to allow students to immerse themselves in a new surrounding and feel what daily life is like for people living in refugee camps.
While watching the video, students could use audio headsets to block out other sounds and listen at a comfortable volume. They could move through the space and rotate to explore the camp. The VR experience allowed students to immerse themselves much more than passively watching a video. Immersive VR videos like I Am Rohingya give students an opportunity to experience powerful stories, and at between $8-$15, cardboard VR headsets offer a cost-effective way to do this.