Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Gate - social communication and the mixed reality boundary

I recently viewed a demo video of 'The Gate' project at the at the inaugural exhibition for the opening of iMAL new venue, 4-7 OCT 2007 in Brussels. This installation utilizes a single mixed reality boundary (MRB) to connect physical space with the virtual world known as Second Life. The project shows some interesting interactions that take place between the two interconnected spaces including spontaneous dancing (by both physical occupants and avatars) as well as some attempts at textual communication. The participants at both ends seem enthusiastic about expression and communication across spatial types and more importantly- having fun.

The installation makes an attempt at reaching a 1 to 1 scale and the placement of the mixed reality boundary (and its camera) reinforces this. I think this is crucial as this seems the best way to maintain consistency through heterogeneous environments viewed through a screen or display. Thus, when the camera angle changes or positions itself away from user eye-height or 1:1 scale, the user becomes conscious of being an observer and the immersion factor is lost. For this reason, 'life-size’ connection between spaces must be maintained and the MRB scale of this project successfully reflects this.

The Gate project also adheres to the 'consistency of information' concept as an attempt is made to match similar structures in both environments. For example, the Second Life columnar portal echoes the column/beam structure housing the screen in physical space. This seems to be a minor aesthetic consideration as the main focus is on the content provided through the projection screen itself. This approach of minimizing the structural characteristics of the MRB and attempting to work within existing architectural elements serves to reinforce the overall focus on content over structural expression. We may begin to see other architectural opportunities for aesthetic incorporation of the MRB as we begin to see products such as translucent projection screens and holoscreens nearing market release.

I did not see specific communication across the MRB in this case, but this might be a consideration for future projects. In my own thesis ruminations, I began to propose an MRB allowing for textual communication between spaces.

Specifically, I was proposing installation of a keyboard or other interface device to allow people in physical space to communicate textually with avatars and vice versa. With the introduction of VOIP and voice recognition software, we may soon develop some exciting new forms of cross boundary communication. One of the main purposes of these types of installations, besides a questioning of spatial inhabitation, is social communication. New technologies and interfaces adopted by the MRB can only serve to facilitate this into a seamless transtopographical experience.
Up next... and examination of the hybrid spatial pocket.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Application of the Mixed Reality Boundary - Liberate Your Avatar

This project was displayed during the Urban Screens Manchester 2007 festival. It is aptly called 'Liberate Your Avatar' and has a dedicated web page here. Paul Sermon has created a space where people can interact with avatars through a single Mixed Reality Boundary. As you can see, this boundary exists in both physical space and virtual space simulatneously. He creates a composite image that allows people and avatars to 'inhabit' the same space while simultaneously (bodily) occupying their own space.
As described on the website:
"The merged realities of ‘All Saints Gardens’ on Oxford Road, and its online three-dimensional counterpart in ‘Second Life’ will, for the first time, allow ‘first life’ visitors and ‘second life’ avatars to coexist and share the same park bench in a live interactive public video installation. Entering into this feedback loop through a portal between these two parallel worlds this event exposes the identity paradox in Second Life."
I analyze this relationship in my thesis on Transarchitecture but Paul has done a wonderful job of excecuting this interaction. Bravo!

Mixed Realities Competition

Great event coming up if anyone can attend. A symposium and exhibition called Mixed Realities will showcase the winners of the competition run by in 2007. The exhibition of the chosen 5 entries opens on Feb. 7th 2008 at Emerson College in Boston. They will also be conducting some sort of workshop on Feb. 8th and 9th.

These winning entries, "explore the convergence—through cyberspace—of real and synthetic places made possible by computers and networks."

It sounds like these artistic works utilize Second Life to experiment with a hybrid spatial condition between the virtual and physical. This is enabled through real-time communication between physical and virtual objects.

Hope to see you there. I'm registering for Saturday.