the-man-behind-notre-dame

On April 15, 2019, the Notre-Dame Cathedral suffered a devastating fire. I recently had a chance to see a 360-degree VR documentary by Targo called The Man Behind Notre-Dame, which follows the Rector-Archpriest of Notre-Dame Patrick Chauvet and his mission to restore the crumbling roof of Notre-Dame. The VR documentary takes you to places that you could never go to on a public tour of Notre-Dame, including the roof to survey the damage. This VR piece can now be seen in an entirely new context now that the fire has caused a lot of the roof of the cathedral to collapse, potentially even sections that were featured in the documentary.

victor-agulhonI talk with Targo co-founder Victor Agulhon at the Laval Virtual conference in Laval, France about their process of capturing this story. They focused on telling the story of Notre-Dame Rector-Archpriest Patrick Chauvet through many of the different locations and contexts throughout the Notre-Dame cathedral. Targo is producing a series of stories that are centered around significant cultural locations, but all centered through personal narrative. This VR documentary offers some of the most recent immersive footage of the cathedral before this latest tragedy, and it serves as a form of preservation of cultral heritage. There’s also a role for using immersive media to capture the history and stories of specific locations, especially since Agulhon himself was a tour guide who has spent been to these types of tourist locations telling the stories of these places. He talks about how exciting it was for him to be able to get access to all of the places that he knew were off limits, but to also capture the as much of the place and stories of Archpriest Chauvet as they could.

In light of all that’s happened with Notre-Dame in the last 24 hours, then this work has given us new insights into the power of virtual reality as a way to document and capture aspects of our cultural heritage. Physical objects are all unfolding in a process of a beginning, middle, and end, and this event might help people start to think about the preservation of these cultural artifacts while they’re still around. But also so that we may more fully enjoy the full breadth and complexity of these lived experiences of these places while we still have access to them. While VR may be able to capture some level of symbolic representation, then these simulations are going to have a really hard time of capturing the full qualia of what it’s like to be in a location. Perhaps it’ll be through the differences that people have of VR experiences of Notre Dame and their own embodied memories that they’ll start to have a deeper appreciation of that qualia gap of virtually-mediated experiences of physical locations.

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You can watch The Man Behind Notre-Dame on either Within or YouTube

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Music: Fatality

traverse-elvis
Jessica Brillhart’s Vrai Pictures & Superbright launched a spatial audio platform at SXSW called Traverse, and they premiered a spatialized audio experience that turned your body into a mixer. As you walked around a space, then your movements changed the relative volume in a spatalized mix of the different individual tracks of a multi-track recording of Elvis’ “Power of My Love.” If you walked closer to the back-up singers, then that you could hear the subtle nuances of their performances. Overall, it gave you the feeling that you were able to walk around the recording studio while this song was being recorded, and it’s opening up new ways to experience some of your favorite music. Traverse won the Special Jury Prize for The Future of Experience at this year’s SXSW Virtual Cinema.

jessica-brillhartBrillhart is a former principle VR filmmaker for Google (Voices of VR #291 & #502), but she set off on her own with Vrai Pictures. It was working on a VR project on Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony that gave her an opportunity to walk around the Philharmonia Orchestra as they were playing their music. This was such an immersive experience within it’s own right that it inspired Brillhart to expand her thinking about the potential of spatialized audio with multi-track recordings. After seeing a prototype demo of the Bose AR Frames at SXSW 2018, then she eventually started collaborating with Superbright in creating an entire mobile phone-based application called Traverse that aims to be an open platform for creators to be able to create and distribute spatial audio experiences, which has integrations with the Bose AR platform with either the Bose AR Frames of Bose Quiet Comfort 35 noise-cancelling headphones.

Brillhart gave a Convergence Keynote at SXSW where she gave a live demo of her Traverse platform, but also announced a project called “Into the Mind” where she’s collaborating with Myst, Riven, and Obduction developer Cyan Games as well as with That Dragon, Cancer developer Numinous Games. They’re going to be exploring the inner mental workings of some of the great scientific minds to explore a form of knowledge representation and the evolution of ideas in what Brillhart describes as a cross between Powers of Ten and Google Maps, but with information rather than geographic maps.

I had a chance to sit down and catch up with Brillhart on March 11th at SXSW, the day of the debut of her Elvis piece and a piece where you’re exploring Mars (The Arm of Insight) on the Traverse platform. We talked about her evolution from film to VR film to immersive audio, and how audio has always been a critical part of all of her work. She gives a sneak peak of a project that’s debuting at Tribeca that features a nine-track audio recording of Yoyo Ma playing a piece by Bach that’s going to be spatialized throughout an entire building. She covers how game design is becoming a bigger part of her experiential design repertoire. Finally, she talks about the dynamics of the birth of a new medium and how our existing systems may not be able to fully contain the complexity of spatial computing, which means that we may need some new systems and infrastructure including spatial audio distribution platforms like Traverse.

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Brillhart mentioned immersive audio artist Janet Cardiff who creates “sound sculptures” and this video shows her ‘The Forty Part Motet,’ which is the type of project that can now start to be translated into a spatial audio AR experience on the Bose AR platform.

Here’s some excerpts from Brillhart’s SXSW Convergence Keynote

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Music: Fatality

VacationSimulator_Resort

Owlchemy Labs have been pioneering VR experiences exploring hand presence and embodied gameplay in VR since the release of Job Simulator and Rick & Morty VR, and they’re releasing their next experience in this sequence called Vacation Simulator where you get to explore a robotic living history of the present moment. It’s what reductive robot overlords of 2060 might imagine what leisure would be like for humans today, but from the perspective of this speculative future looking back through the lens of algorithms.

Devin-Reimer-Andrew-EicheI had a chance to unpack the design process with CEOwl Devin Reimer and CTOwl Andrew Eiche where they had to balance the tradeoffs between non-linear, open world exploration and the linear, goal-driven puzzles that are spread out through the three different vacation worlds. We talked about the extensive play testing, the different categories of embodied game play and how they try to balance that for different personality temperaments, the different metrics for success and “win conditions” that drove their development process, their rapid iteration process of dialog creation, world building, and humor, the difficulties of detected the large variety of different types of hand waves to trigger interactions with the NPC robots throughout the experience, cross-platform design considerations for Rift, Vive, PSVR, & Oculus Quest, working as an autonomous innovation studio while being owned and supported by Google, and dealing with the complexity of having a dozen different ways to combine and blend objects together across the entire experience.

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Music: Fatality

bose-ar-frames
Michael-Ludden
The Bose AR platform with the Bose AR Frames and the QuietComfort 35 headphones was one of the most exciting announcements that happened at SXSW. These Bose AR Frames wearables feature spatialized audio and serve as a bluetooth headset that has an accelerometer, gyrometer, and magnetometer that when paired with the GPS on your phone can detect where you are and where you’re looking. These are enough of the key ingredients to start to create an augmented layer of spatialized audio that iOS, Android and Unity app developers can start to target. There are a number of different head and body gestures that can also start to be detected including push-ups, squats, “Sup?” nod gesture, shake, double tap, look up, look down, spin around, roll head around — including lots of other potential gestures that could be trained through machine learning.

I had chance to talk with Michael Ludden of Bose AR developer relations to talk about the evolution of their AR platform, what types of apps were being launched at SXSW this year, and how Bose is going to be pushing an audio-first layer of augmentation that pulls people out of their screens so that we can be heads up, hands free, and more IN the world around us.

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Music: Fatality

audiojack-sxswThe Bose AR House at SXSW 2019 featured the first round of interactive audio experiences that are integrated with the Bose AR Frames and Quick Connect 35 noise-cancelling headphones. Devices on the Bose AR platform have an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer so that it can detect head movement and velocity, cardinal direction, and relative position, and Audiojack was showing an interactive audio experience where you could take different branches exploring an audio landscape by turning your head at key moments.

david-tobinI had a chance to catch up with Audiojack founder David Tobin to talk about his initial inspiration for Audiojack, his vision for how interactive audio landscapes can reinvigorate our imaginations by inviting us to become the authors of our own stories, how Audiojack is being used in educational contexts to inspire creativity, and why he things exploring the imaginal real is one of the most powerful tools we have to catalyze new ways of things, cultivate empathy, and to project out into the future to imagine the consequences of our actions.

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Music: Fatality
Photo from Audiojack

behaviorme

annie-escalanteBehaviorMe is using virtual reality to enhance behavior therapy for children and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It’s started by four people including two therapy practioners with fifteen years of experience working with clients diagnosed with ASD as well as two recent graduates studying behavioral analytics. They’re using the Oculus Go to do virtual skills training using evidenced-based Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) techniques within safe virtual environments that include fire drills, crossing the street, being lost at a park, and waiting in lines. They’re also creating experiences to help train the staff who will be working with people diagnosed with ASD.

andy-chavez2I had a chance to talk with co-founders Annie Escalante and Andy Chávez at the SXSW Festival after they had participated in the XR start-up pitch competition where we talked about their journey of starting BehaviorMe, and how they’re using behavioral analysis for virtual skills training. They building a future where you’ll eventually be able to create training scenarios to be able to help children learn social skills or in other areas where they have a deficit.

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Music: Fatality

lucid-dreaming
arthur-gillardLucid Dreaming is ability to become aware that you’re dreaming, and to potentially even start to interact and direct what happens within your dream. Arthur Gillard is a VR enthusiast who has been tracking the intersection between immersive technologies and lucid dreaming through a Twitter account called Lucid Virtuality. We talk about VR can be used as a training ground for lucid dreaming, how skills you learn to do in VR could be transferable to lucid dreams, tips for how to know that you’re in a lucid dream, and how the real world is becoming more dreamline as we learn to interrogate our dreams through lucid dreaming and overlay dreamlike augmentation on top of our reality.

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Music: Fatality

torkom-ji-picture
torkom-jiTorkom Ji tells the story of how he used Resident Evil 7 VR as a form of fear resistance training, and transformational shadow work to overcome his fears. He’s also a co-founder of Visual Reality, which is bringing psychedelic culture and visionary art into virtual reality. He’s a sound healer & music producer who has been performing his Quantum Harmonics for the last couple of years in the Visual Reality section of VRLA, and he tells me about the process of cultivating ambient soundscapes that explore aspects of time, and how cycles of nature can be experienced through the polarities of expansion/compression, rise/fall, and a tonal field of basic harmonics in the overtone series. I found this to be a fascinating exploration of remediating fear through virtual simulations of the horror genre, how psychedelic culture is blurring the boundaries of reality, and the trends of spatial audio and ambient soundscapes that are able to create contextual layers of augmentation.

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Music: Fatality

helix-time2
alex_bowlesHelixaeon’s Time Helix has a unique way of visualizing time-based data as a fractal-nested helix. Helixaeon was recently awarded US Patent #10,185,933 for their interactive, multi-dimensional data visualization that’s able to “generate a representation of the length of time as a view of a three dimensional (3D) helix wherein each revolution of the 3D helix corresponds with an iteration of the cyclic period.”

I had a chance to talk with Helix co-founder Alex Bowles at Oculus Connect 5 about how visualizing data displayed as cycles of time can help to detect underlying patterns in sets of big data, but also provide a direct embodied experience of complex systems such as the threats that we’re facing from climate change. Helix is moving beyond the linear depiction of time and their innovative Helix visualization of cyclical time has the potential to help us understand more about our past as well as understand predictions about the future so that we can make better decisions today.

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Music: Fatality

Restorative Justice practices are an alternative form of justice that’s a victim-centered that creates a space for offenders to own the harm done, and for victims to tell the story of their experiences of that harm directly to the offender. It’s a set of indigenous restorative practices that try to restore a sense of balance into the entire community, and it can be used as an complete alternative to existing retributive justice systems or as a supplement. Tyler Musgrave has worked with the organization of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth, and then participated in Mozilla’s XR Studio to learn more about how she can bring some of these restorative practices within the context of VR in her Restorative VR project.

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Music: Fatality