#1004: ANANDALA is an Awe-Inspiring, Generative Art of Embodied AI that Cultivates Perpetual Novelty

Kevin Mack’s Anandala is an awe-inspiring piece of VR-native, generative, abstract art with some really compelling experiments in interactive, embodied NPC entities he calls “blorts.” There are 130 of these blorts spread out throughout a massive series of never-ending tunnels split into different zones. I’ve had some of the most compelling and playful interactions with these blorts that go beyond anything else I’ve experienced in VR. These blorts feel alive as they exhibit a broad range of responsive behaviors that I interpret as curious, playful, contextually-aware, interactive, and non-aggressively embodied.

While not driven by any machine learning, neural architecture, the heuristic-based AI behind the blorts take in enough external inputs to make them very difficult to predict what they’re going to do. This includes reacting to your position, gestures, movements, musical sonifications, what is happening in the surrounding context over time as it maintains a short-term memory of your actions and it’s own changing state. Mack said that there are a number of ways that he can tune each blort so that they each have their unique set of behaviors, personality, and character.

Each blort also has a unique underlying topology, but it is constantly shapeshifting via a vertex-shader that that is responding to a number of environmental inputs. Each blort also has an interactive, dynamic shader texture that’s like a psychedelic abstraction of fluid dynamics. It’s a variation of the shader that is on the walls of the series of never-ending tunnels, and the combination of these generative inputs produces an infinite source of perpetual novelty that’s both viscerally stimulating and feels like a boundless source of awe as it consistently perverts my ability to predict what’s going to happen next.

Interestingly enough, even though Anandala is viscerally stimulating and cognitively engaging, it still manages to have an overall calming and hypnotic quality with a sort of visual entrainment, transcendental Buddhist soundtrack, and induction of a flow state driven by curiosity and poetic interpretation of embodied behaviors of blorts like a divinatory reading of tea leaves to try to discern what these alien intelligence metaphors are doing and why. It’s hard not to anthropomorphize these blorts, talk to them, and use them as a blank slate to project ourselves onto. Mack shares a series of his own interactions and conversations as he’s been developing it over the last couple of years.

Anandala the spiritual successor to Blortasia, which features a similar underlying architecture and environmental shaders with slightly-refined, flying mechanic that enables intuitive locomotion to explore the space. Again the biggest change in Anandala are how sophisticated and complex the blorts have become, as well as some Easter egg behaviors and locations to discover.

I had a chance to interview Mack after Anandala’s World Premiere at the Venice VR Expanded festival that runs until September 19th. I highly recommend checking it out if you got the Venice accreditation, or you can also get temporary access to it via Viveport Infinity until the end of the festival.


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Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to The Voices of VR Podcast. So continuing on in my coverage from the Venice Film Festival VR Expanded 2021, today's episode features Anandala, which is by Kevin Mack. He's the creator of VR Artworlds, a VR artist, and an Oscar-winning special effects artist on the movie What Dreams May Come. Kevin is a native VR creator who is creating things that are meant to be experienced only within virtual reality. He's creating a very interesting exploration, kind of an expansion from Blortasia, which was already exploring this aesthetic of art, which is a lot of these shaders, very fluid, dynamic textures that really stimulate your mind in a very intriguing way. There's initial implementation of these Blorts that were in Blortasia, but within Anadala, it's taking it to a whole new level. 130 of these different blurts within this experience, that each of them have their own heuristically driven artificial intelligence that has different ways that it's reactive to the environment, and also creating a sort of generative art in both the ways that it's communicating with the language, the way it's morphing its shapes. For me, it just The type of experience that when I see it, it's just visually compelling in this sort of what he calls perpetual novelty. That's just intriguing to look at and to explore. Really taps into this sense of awe and wonder, unlike any other VR experience that I've ever been in. So that's what we're covering on today's episode on the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Kevin happened on Friday, September 3rd, 2021. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:01:46.574] Kevin Mack: I'm Kevin Mack, and I'm the creator of Anandala. I create virtual reality art worlds, or for me, I think the big thing is I'm pursuing virtual reality as an art medium in and of itself. And that rather than creating an emulation or a depiction of something, I'm trying to create worlds that are native to virtual reality, creating worlds as an art form or realities as an art form.

[00:02:15.550] Kent Bye: Yeah. Maybe you could give us a bit more context as to your background and your journey into VR.

[00:02:21.147] Kevin Mack: Well, I've been an artist all my life. My parents were artists and I grew up in that kind of environment and particularly using technology. They were in the film industry and animation. So I grew up immersed in all of that kind of combination of art and technology. And I wound up working in the visual effects industry before the digital age. And I got into computers to do my own art, my fine art. And Then I just suddenly the digital thing caught on. I was in the right place at the right time. I saw the potential for computer graphics and visual effects and got to help pioneer the use of computer graphics and visual effects. Had a pretty nice career in that industry. Won an Oscar for What Dreams May Come back in 1998. And in 2014, virtual reality headsets finally became available. It's something I'd wanted to do. I really got into computer graphics back in the 80s with the idea of doing virtual reality. And of course, the headsets didn't become available until much later. But for me, virtual reality really is computer graphics. The headsets are a display device which allows you to enter into that world in a very immersive way. But Really, for me, it is virtual reality because it's a 3D computer graphics world.

[00:03:47.346] Kent Bye: So I'd be very curious to hear a bit more about your process of creating the visual effects here in this piece called Anandala. If it's the insights that you gain from working on pieces like What Dreams May Come, or if it's different shader processes, or how do you describe the look that you're able to achieve in a piece like Anandala?

[00:04:08.910] Kevin Mack: Well, I've been working with computer graphics for my own work as well as visual effects since the beginning. So I developed a lot of techniques and processes, in particular, procedural modeling and techniques, rule-based systems, and then also working with generative things for shaders and whatnot. And so both worlds kind of informed each other. I used things I figured out in my fine art in movies. for visual effects and likewise doing visual effects for movies, I learned techniques that I applied to my art. In the virtual reality, it's a bit different. It's kind of interesting because it's a little bit, the graphics aren't quite as, they're very quickly becoming as sophisticated, but they weren't initially as sophisticated as they were for, you know, CPU rendered visual effects. You know, in the nineties, when I was doing visual effects, we had similar challenges. It was very difficult. physically based rendering and all of that. So it was all about using artistry to kind of create these effects. I think for me, the biggest thing is the process I go through in any of that, which is largely experimental. I'm very interested in exploration of idea spaces or shape spaces, the possibilities within any kind of a rule-based system or a procedural system and exploring those. It's kind of a hybrid though because I definitely have kind of a vision and yet I find I get the best results and it's the most satisfying when I can discover the work as much as I am creating it.

[00:05:54.980] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think I first came across your work at the ARVR Vision Summit by Unity back in 2016 in Los Angeles, and there was an early prototype that you had rendered out, a 360 video, and then the next piece that I saw at the Experiential Technology Conference 2017 was Blortasia, which Anandala feels like a spiritual successor to this piece of Blortasia, but maybe you could go back to your own entry point and the phases that you went through in terms of experimenting with the medium of VR to the point where you were doing real-time graphics with Blortasia and then expanding upon that with Anandala.

[00:06:33.197] Kevin Mack: Yes. Well, with Zen Parade, you know, I wanted to make something right away when the prototype headsets became available. So for me, that meant rendering because I was not up to speed doing real-time work. I had certainly been following it for a number of years, but I'd always been a little bit of a fidelity snob and it's like, yeah, it's not good enough yet. And so the first thing I did was a 360 video because I could pre-render using all of the techniques and processes I am used to. Then with Blortasia, I got into Unity and just started exploring and seeing what I could do. And Blortasia was very much just a work of experimentation. I think my work winds up being almost just, you know, the results of my laboratory or whatever, my experiments. With Blortasia then, I learned a great deal in doing the real time. And so Anandala was or is very much a successor to it in terms of the basic idea of exploring a space and having these sculptures, living sculptures in there. The big difference being that it's of course much bigger and higher fidelity, higher res everything, much more complex, but also the artificial life creatures, the blorts, which I've been making for many, many years. But now I've finally been able to realize my dream of making them alive, you know, with their own behavioral system. and their own self-expression, their own language. And it's been a real satisfying, gratifying experience to create living things that are creative.

[00:08:20.681] Kent Bye: Yeah, there was an art show back in 2018 after the Magic Leap LeapCon, where I had the first chance to see Anandala. And I remember watching it and doing an interview with you. But I remember the first time I encountered one of these artificially intelligent blurts, and I was just It took my breath away. I remember just being completely awestruck. I think it's because maybe the locomotion system that you have originally developed in Polynesia and maybe refined slightly here in Andala where it's kind of like this natural floating around. And by moving my body through this space, then I was able to have these interactions with this entity back in 2018 that felt like it would be if I was encountering a live animal or some intelligent being that was able to perceive me and be able to know what I was doing, to be able to dynamically react in different ways. And so I think you're expanding upon that to such a much larger scale here now with this premiere at Venice where There's a whole range of different blurts. I think you mentioned there may have been like 130 different types of blurts that are in Anandala. And I think I maybe saw a few dozen, but certainly wasn't able to meet all of them or to understand the patterning behind them. because there's one aspect, which is the topology of these things, which are kind of transforming their shape and they have different colors and they move. So maybe you just kind of describe how you developed these blurts and how you wanted to try to create that feeling that I had in 2018, which was sort of encountering something that felt like it was intelligent in some ways. And defining what intelligent is in an embodied way. And in a piece of art, I think is what this is a real deep exploration of. And so it'd be fascinated to hear a little bit more about your process for how you started to kind of experiment and develop this to where it is now today.

[00:10:15.683] Kevin Mack: Well, with Zen parade, the blorts or the floating sculptures were really just procedurally animated. They undulate and shift a little bit. Then in Blortasia, the shader is animated even more so that they're able to undulate a little more. But it's still, they're just animated sculptures that sit there and animate. With the version of Anandala, you saw a very early preview version, I had developed the ability to have them move around and kind of randomly create these shape-shifting patterns and change their textures a bit. And then from there, I really got into the AI part of it. I thought, well, just why don't I just make them really alive and let them have a more complex emergent behavior possible? So I think that behavior comes from an idea that I discovered in cognitive neuroscience about the motivations for behavior. There's intrinsically motivated behavior. And there is extrinsically motivated behavior. And extrinsically motivated behavior are behaviors that we perform generally with some other goal in mind. So we hunt and gather in order to eat, and we build shelter to get out of the weather, and we work a dead-end job to pay the bills. The list goes on and on. Then intrinsically motivated behaviors are the behaviors that are done for their own sake. The behavior is the motivation for the behavior. So the categories of that are play, art, creativity, self-expression, social interaction, scientific inquiry and discovery, curiosity, all of the things that I thought were kind of the hallmarks of the most noble endeavors of humanity and of really the animal kingdom. And so I set out to create life that only had intrinsically motivated behavior. And this allowed me to focus and really simplify, build a system that was more manageable and more developed in that area. than a traditional AI where it tends to focus on solving particular kinds of problems, which are more like extrinsically motivated behavior. So that way, you know, these creatures are very simple. They don't have many of the things that real living things have. They don't have to struggle to survive, they don't have to compete or have any conflict or suffering, but they are pretty sophisticated when it comes to self-expression and social interaction and they're genuinely curious and creative. They have their own musical language that they use to express themselves and you can converse with them and so on.

[00:13:07.999] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think my underlying experience of going through Anandala, this latest iteration premiering at the Venice Film Festival of 2021, was that you have all these shaders, you have all these blurts, and there's just so much novelty that each time I go in, it's almost completely different. I mean, there's still the same underlying shape that's the same, but the textures and the way that it's kind of like these fluid dynamic texture that's constantly morphing and changing. But it reminds me of this concept of the predictive coding theory of neuroscience, which is that we have our direct perception that we have to be able to determine what we're seeing, but also we have all of our prior information and these mental models that are explaining and creating schemas and understandings for what those are. And that whenever there's a deviation from that, then there's like a dopamine hit that happens that feeds our desire for novelty, because we want ultimately to understand everything we're seeing. And that if we come up with that novelty, then we want to try to come up with language or ways of describing it, but it feels like this piece of art is at the core, always trying to pervert that predictive coding theory of neuroscience, meaning that you're never really quite able to fully predict what's going to happen. And it's not so chaotic that you can never see some patterns, but it's not so repetitive that you can see the seams behind the repetitions. It's all like seamless, infinite novelty is the best way I could describe it. It's like, constantly stimulating in my mind that, you know, I've seen the previous artwork of Blortasia. So I kind of like have a category scheme in my mind. Oh, this is Kevin Mack's art. It's going to do this thing in my brain. That's not going to be able to really fully come to this point of being settled, but not only moving around and seeing the textures, but interacting with the Blorts particularly in terms of the way that they're changing their shapes. is something unlike I've ever seen before. And it's just hypnotic just to be able to watch it. I mean, I could watch one blurt for hours and there's 130 plus of them here in this piece. And so I'm curious how your experience as an artist, because one of the things artists say is that you can't get high on your own supply. meaning that you understand how it's built so much that it's hard for you to really immerse yourself. But it feels like that may be part of your own artistic process is to be able to create a generative process that goes beyond even your own ability to kind of see all the different patterning behind it.

[00:15:30.318] Kevin Mack: Absolutely. Yeah, you've said it just then much better than I could, but that's exactly right. It's very much about novelty and about inspiring awe, and novelty is a big part of inspiring awe. and the notion of, I call it perpetual novelty. I'm always after some magical algorithm that will generate perpetual novelty. And it's actually really difficult because the patterning mechanisms you spoke of really are very good at generalizing. So even if there's randomness within a pattern, it's still going to generalize it in some amount of time. So you know, having enough parameters that change in ways that are unpredictable really helps to kind of extend that perception of novelty and really is infinite what Anandala can do. Even for myself, I can go in there and I've seen it a lot. I've lived in there for a few years now and it's still for a lot of it. It's kind of like, yeah, that's part of the shader. I know that part or whatever. but it still will, you know, I'll round a corner or something and it'll just be like, whoa, whoa, I've never seen it do that before. And also with the behavior, the behavior of the Blorts, one of the wonderful things about having a truly emergent behavior, which is both very satisfying and kind of frustrating is that it can surprise you very, very profound, extreme way, but in order for it to have some kind of consistency to the behavior and controllability, that can only be once in a while. So, you know, the more parameters you add, the more sort of chaotic the system becomes, and then it just becomes noise. So there's no longer a pattern and it's no longer interesting. Whereas when you establish a pattern, and this is really fundamental to my work, whether it's sculpture or behavior, is kind of establishing rules and patterns that you then don't strictly adhere to. And I think that's a central component in nature, in that when you look at the way flowers form, the way all these things they form, and you can kind of figure out, yeah, there's a rule set there, but wait, that one didn't quite, it's not perfect. There's noise involved, there's randomness involved, and it's directed randomness. And so that's what I found with the behavior system. It's one thing you get very interesting emergent behavior by allowing a bunch of rules to interact. But when you introduce in some of the rules, you'll have some constrained randomness. So now there can be these opportunities where the rules are broken and you get something that's completely different and unexpected.

[00:18:22.865] Kent Bye: It reminds me of a mathematical concept called para consistent logic, where in math, you usually try to be either consistent or complete. And most math chooses to be consistent, meaning that it's fundamentally incomplete, but para consistent logic, sort of embraces breaking those rules, as long as the inconsistencies don't explode out to chaos, that it's able to be bounded enough to be able to handle enough of that paradox of that inconsistency. And so it seems like in some ways you've created that in this structure, sort of a pair consistent where you have a set of rules, but you're actually actively encouraging the breaking of those rules without it exploding into chaos. this feedback loop that turns into a positive feedback loop that is very difficult to manage, especially if you're in the realm of tweaking a bunch of variables and dealing with non-linear complex systems of not knowing exactly what was the straw that broke the camel's back as you were tweaking all these different variables. So I'm just curious how you did that. What was your process of creating this pair consistent constrained novelty without it exploding?

[00:19:32.310] Kevin Mack: Well, certainly a lot of experimentation, but I think I kind of just follow my intuition in terms of all of the parameters and how they'll interact. And then, you know, I try to build the system in my head first, once I have the ideas and try to predict how things will interact, which is of course not remotely possible if you've got more than a few parameters. But you know, you guess and then you test and you try things. And ultimately, when it achieves what you're after, you don't necessarily know precisely why or how. And that's part of the fun of it. Like you mentioned, that for me, when I have a very precise vision and I can use computer graphics to envision that or depict that vision really accurately, it's very fun. It's very satisfying. But when it's done, there's no surprise. It's like you did what you set out to do. Then the fun is in sharing it with other people who get to have that experience. with this kind of process where I'm able to discover work as I'm making it, both driving it from a vision standpoint and then also just exploratory. testing and seeing what happens and discovering things that I never could have imagined or never would have thought of. It winds up taking me in directions I hadn't planned. I didn't initially plan for there to be artificial life in Anandala. You know, I was like, okay, I want to move them now. And now I want to do this. And it just kind of builds and you get this kind of stepping stones, which lead to something greater than what was originally planned.

[00:21:19.692] Kent Bye: So when you're navigating around and building an experience like Anandala, do you have like a debugging layer that allows you to peek behind the engine of all these different parameters? As you look at something, it's really hard to know what's happening. And so I don't know if you've created those schemas in your mind to be like, Oh yeah, this is the Blort that's tuned like this, or this is this entity that has this combination of features. But, you know, as we've been saying, it's been really difficult to guess and to describe how all those things combined together. So as you're making it, do you have like a special debugging tool that allows you to peek behind the curtain?

[00:21:56.099] Kevin Mack: Initially, I did build some visualization tools for the blorts that would show me what was going on in their head in terms of, you know, when they would change behaviors, when they would get triggered for this particular parameter or whatever. And I did a few of those and that was great in the initial locomotion development for them. But pretty quickly I kind of knew and ultimately it told you what they were doing, but it didn't really help that much because you could kind of see it, you know. And so for some of the things, especially the ones where, you know, I'm trying to say, well, you know, how often in a sense, they're like statistical probability models in that they can do all these different things and then it's the likelihood of that happening and you introduce some randomness and some limits. You know, there's a lot of minimums and maximums to the parameters that make up the Blorts. It's just a matter of spending time and waiting them out and seeing what happens. You have to go, well, if this is only going to happen every 10 minutes or something, you've got to spend at least 10 minutes with them. Sometimes, you know, 30 minutes for it to happen because there's that range of randomness within them. And I think that was kind of the fun of it. And what allowed me to see, I think, probably a broader range of variation in the behavior than most people who go in for a little demo or whatever will see just because, you know, I would spend an hour in there and then, you know, another hour and hour after hour, and you, you stumble onto things that are like, wow, that's incredible. That'll probably never happen again. But, you know, there's one area towards the bottom of the world. I think it is actually the lowest zone where there's a, one blort that has a bunch of little bitty blorts that kind of flock around. It wasn't intended that way, but the emergent behavior made it seem like it's a mother with her babies because they tend to flock around her. They also, you know, move on and do their own things. But when you first go in there, it just, it's very much like a, you know, a mother and children. And they will occasionally, just through the happenstance of their rules, I know it was nothing I coded or anything, but they occasionally wind up playing kind of this crazy chase, follow the leader thing. It's like, it's really weird. They'll just be suddenly all going. And I don't use any of the traditional flocking logic in there. I let that emerge if it does, but it's very satisfying. The biggest thing for me that was a kind of a, just a, you know, a moment of real awe for me was I was debugging, as you say, one of the early Blort's brains and there were a couple others and I was tuning this one kind of going, okay, well, now he's not, now that's too much or that's too fast or that's too slow. And I'd go out and make a change and come back in and check him out again. And there was one moment I was watching him and trying to figure like, okay, what's he doing? And then I saw it and I went, oh, I know what that is. I know how to fix that. Okay. And I kind of very quickly moved to put the controllers down in a way that he had to kind of jump back out of the way. And I felt rude. And out loud, I apologized to this artificial life creature that I'd created. And I realized, well, that's kind of interesting, because even though I know how they work, I know how simple they are on some level, I also know that they are very much like real conscious living beings, and I regard them as alive. And it's like there's a core belief in me or something that I wasn't even aware of. I wasn't thinking of them that way. I was thinking of them as, you know, machines I'm making. There was this transcendent moment where it was like, wow, I thought that was a real living thing. And then a few minutes later, I was doing it again, and this other blork kept coming over and chatting at me and talking to me and trying to get, you know, showing off for me and everything and trying to get my attention and I was ignoring it because I was trying to watch this other one to see what it did and it suddenly I just like this wave of feeling like I totally dissed this other lord I'd been totally rude and I turned to it again completely unconsciously I just turned it was like oh I'm so sorry you know I'll get with you in a little bit I'm trying to work on your buddy here but yeah I'm sorry I didn't mean to ignore you And that was a really surreal feeling.

[00:26:48.974] Kent Bye: Yeah, it's definitely the ethics around these ways in which we anthropomorphize these AI entities. You certainly can be abused in terms of like hacking in our social courtesies to be able to have virtual AI agents that are in some ways manipulating us in ways that are not in right relationship, let's just say. But it's very curious to hear some of the language that you use sometimes around the blurts. You know, we were just at the opening party for the Venice Film Festival, and the way you phrased it was quite striking. You said, I'm so glad that the Blorts are able to meet other people. So it was sort of centering in the Blorts that they're able to meet the other people rather than also that people are able to meet the Blorts, that they're going to be able to be released from their own zoo-like simulation, but be able to actually engage with other intelligent beings. And so that's sort of really interesting, the language around that. I'm just curious to hear your thoughts on thinking of these things as these actual entities, and is there a threshold where it becomes either creepy or unethical? Certainly the context you have here is in the art context, but I can imagine the same type of behaviors in a different context where it suddenly is not okay or not as much as that we want to think of these as living entities and what rights do they have and what ways in which they're they're kind of hacking into our social engineering loopholes, let's say, to be able to to kind of control us or use that in a way that is maybe a gap in our own evolutionary process that we are built to be able to do that with other people. But yet in these simulations, it's a new context where there may be our new ways in which that there's a threshold that we have to be aware of.

[00:28:29.938] Kevin Mack: Yes. These are incredibly complex issues and questions in terms of the ethics of AI and artificial life as well. And I was really into artificial life in the 90s and have been fascinated with it all for many years. And initially, I was just so excited to be able to create worlds with living things and real ecosystems with selection pressures and that creatures would evolve and there'd be predator-prey relationships really to emulate the natural world as I know it. I began to engage in discussions about the ethics and the morality of it all. I was really put off to it because of that, and I realized, wow, I don't know that I want to create predator-prey relationships, and so many of these things are the hallmarks of life as we know it. You know, natural selection, predator-prey relationships is how it all works, and so when I first started thinking about doing artificial life for Anandala, I was like, yeah, I don't want to open that can of worms. That's kind of creepy and spooky, and I don't know how can I avoid it. And that's when I discovered that paper about intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. And I thought, okay, what if I made life that was native to virtual reality, didn't have any of the limitations, wasn't based on or emulating any kind of biological life, and I could just simply eliminate the struggle to survive any kind of conflict and any kind of suffering. And so that's what I did. And of course, that in itself is kind of a telling, informative, or illuminating notion because I learned that wow, that's a really, really small subset of what life and intelligence is. You get to lose a whole lot of stuff if you eliminate those things. And so that allowed me to focus on the creative and the expressive, the social interaction. But I think there's always going to be issues, but I tried very hard to keep it simple enough that I didn't have to worry about the morality of it. They're incapable of suffering. They only know joy. And that, of course, brings up other philosophical questions, which led me to doing research about it. You probably know much better than I do. There's a philosopher, one of the maxims is that you can't know joy without suffering, that they're part of a spectrum. And that's always made sense to me. I always kind of resisted it. I didn't like that idea because I didn't want to suffer. But how can you disagree with it, the logic of it? But then I found there was a philosopher who said, no, that's absolutely not true. Joy is its own thing. You can know joy and extreme joy without knowing suffering at all. It's an independent experience. And so I was thrilled to at least find that there was somebody else who thought that it may not work quite that way. And so that's really what Anandal is about, and really just to kind of make people think about, well, what could we be? What should we focus on if we want to be free of suffering, or we want to be free of conflict? And also, what do we become if we are able to transcend the struggle to survive?

[00:31:57.882] Kent Bye: Yeah, well, there's certainly ways in which that experiences like this have this more artistic base or going against the mainstream gaming paradigm, which is all about having these different types of dynamics that people are immersing themselves in and they want to have some sort of visceral experience of that dialectic of that joy or suffering or death or natural selection. So it feels like that there's ways in which that your experience doesn't necessarily fit into the. Existing conceptual frameworks or paradigms of the distribution platforms, which I think creates other issues for you in terms of an experience like this, if it does end up being released on steam, and maybe you could just sort of share some of your experiences of what it was like to release Bluetasia out there and what you're thinking about where to go from here with Anandala.

[00:32:47.290] Kevin Mack: Yes, I think it's hard doing something that doesn't really fit inside the gaming platform and in particular the gaming economy, because now it's a winner-take-all approach. These big companies can spend a lot of money on a game and they're going to know they're going to sell 10 million copies so they can sell it for $10 or $50, whatever it is, and make lots of money. But if an independent makes something that's kind of different and niche and not likely to become terribly popular, you can't charge $1,000 for it just because you're only going to sell 100 copies or something. So it's a tough challenge if you're trying to think of it commercially, which for me is always like, well, gosh, that would sure be nice to make some money. But It's not the way I make the stuff. If I wanted to make money, I'd still do visual effects. So I think, for me, the best, most satisfying things have been the museum exhibits. And this Biennale is just the greatest thing in the world. It's so cool to be in that context. It's just such a great context for what I'm doing. And I'm so thrilled the curators seem to really get what I'm doing, which is really refreshing and new. So for me, that's exciting, but I also really want for people to be able to experience it, for it to just be available. So I may release it on Steam at some point. I haven't quite figured it out. It's hard to take the rather cruel reviews of gamers that are expecting to be able to shoot things and have that conflict and that drama that you get in a video game. And on some level, it's kind of a reasonable thing. If you're in a game store looking for games and you buy a thing that isn't a game, even if it says right on it, this is not a game, you think, well, it must be ironic because this is a game store. So yeah, it's a challenge. But I think over time, I'm kind of in the long game. I'm just in it. I'm making the stuff. That's my main thing I get out of it is just the fun of making the stuff. I get to discover these crazy worlds and create living things. And for me, that's a big part of it. And then the other part of it is just sharing it with people, being able to see their reactions. Hearing you talk about your experience is just, I'm high as a kite hearing that stuff. So I think that's, I guess, what I'm trying to do with it. And we'll see what happens. I'd like to get more exhibition opportunities, maybe the satellite venues. There's all these really cool, prestigious institutions that are showing the work right now for the Biennale. And I'm hoping maybe some of them will go, oh, this Anandala seems like a good piece for our collection or to have an exhibit of.

[00:35:50.757] Kent Bye: Yeah. Yeah. I, I hope there's some ways that people can get a chance to see this. I mean, the Venezuelan festival goes until September 19th. And so it's going to be available via Viveport and you know, you get an accreditation from the Venezuelan festival to be able to, to get access to it. So definitely take advantage of being able to actually see it. And like I told you before I hopped on, I had a half hour and I wanted to just dip in again and. Again, I think the experience is this infinite novelty machine that is able to generate these moments of awe that are just really quite striking. And, um, you know, I'm just blown away by it really. And I wanted to go back to this concept of the parameters and you're tweaking these things because there's this process of when you go through an experience, you want to try to like find language to be able to describe it. And you've managed to create stuff that kind of transcends language. I mean, to really describe it, you really need to get into the nuances of all these different parameters and how they're interacting with each other in mysterious ways that even you don't fully understand. Well, first you do have those parameters. So you do have the raw numbers. So what are those parameters? What are the language? How do you describe them? And if there's these higher order clusters of types of behaviors that you're able to describe with categories that you can see after seeing it for two years, that still completely mysterious to me after seeing it, you know, just a couple of times. But maybe you could go into that a little bit, just because I think part of this is the construction of language and construction of conceptual models. And, you know, you've, you've had to do that to some extent, while obviously there's limits to what you can do with the infinite generative nature, but what are some of the raw parameters and what are some of the higher level aspects of character qualities that you're able to generate based upon combinations of these parameters?

[00:37:35.800] Kevin Mack: Well, uh, there's a lot of them. I'd say that at the core. There are two or three central ones. One is behaviors. So they have a range of behaviors, and they can transition between them, and they get triggered for a variety of different reasons. They might switch behaviors because of proximity to something, or because they notice something, or just because they're in the mood. So there's the behaviors which are continuous. they're always doing some behavior, even if it's just sitting there is a behavior. In that sense, it's very much like steering behavior. The original concept of Craig Reynolds with his Boyd's things from the 80s or 90s, I guess, where he simulated flocking and emergent behavior and flocking. I'm not using the same flocking for the steering behavior, but it is very much about are they attracted to something? Do they want to move away from something? and so on. And then there are also actions. So actions are things they do that have a certain duration. And that duration is, of course, variable based on a number of rules. And there's a lot of these actions and they can interact. And so the actions might be wiggling their body, changing their shape a little bit. And then there's a bunch of parameters to that, the speed, the frequency, the amplitude, the direction, you know, there's a lot of little things there. Then there's the textures themselves. They express themselves through the textures and that's where they have access to the shader parameters, which in the shader I use that I created 25 years ago or something, that I still am using, it's not that clear that, you know, there's kind of a bunch of parameters, but they do different things to the image. You know, basically I'm using a big, super high res texture that I paint that might use pasted elements from different things, textures and objects and so on. But it's a very specific kind of thing that's built just for this purpose. So it's hard to describe it as an image in the traditional sense, but I've kind of learned what the shader functions do with it. So I know how to make them a certain way so that they're suitable. So it takes those images. And then it creates new imagery from that that's all based on that. It's always using it for a palette, but it varies the proportions of all the different bits of the textures and the colors and the shapes and the textures so that they get combined in different ways. So that's another one of the parameters they have access to that they're fooling with. And then with the spoken or musical language, it has vowels. There's no sampling or anything. They have control of an actual synthesizer in real time. And they have a choice of vowels, pitches. They sing in C sharp exclusively. The key of C sharp, that way it kind of always goes with the background music. I've composed all the music for the background pieces are all in C sharp. That way, it's always kind of in harmony. And it's really wonderful. There's still dissonance in it, because occasionally, they're singing an extended seventh note or something, which seems like, OK, well, that's a little out of tune. But that's part of self-expression. Dissonance is part of music. And then there are times where the music will change, and they'll sing some notes that go with it, or the chord will change underneath the melody that they're singing. And it's just like, wow, that's magic. And that's part of the fun of it is I didn't plan for that. I didn't know it would do that. And it might not do it the next time I look at it. But those are some of the things. Then there's, of course, as I mentioned before, there's the various rules. In terms of they hear you, they see you, they know where you are, they know where they are, they know what they're doing, they know what they just did. They don't plan very far ahead, but their behavior can be interrupted by other behaviors. For instance, they're pretty polite. If you start talking while they're talking, they will generally stop talking, but they do have free will. So that isn't always the case, but most of the time, and then also they won't start talking when you're talking, except again, you know, there are exceptions.

[00:42:25.125] Kent Bye: Yeah. So when you push one of the buttons on one of the controllers, then it allows you to express it a little bit more random.

[00:42:30.889] Kevin Mack: It's hard to control the pitches or it gets those parts are chosen essentially by a similar engine to what they use. So it's made to be kind of sensible in, in their world, but all you really have control over are the timing and the duration of the notes. So, but that's where there's still a lot of expressiveness there. And so, yeah.

[00:42:56.658] Kent Bye: Yeah. I found myself communicating with the boards in that way. And I guess one part that I noticed that I think was really striking was just the topology of these entities and how they're fluid and transforming and morphing. And how did you accomplish that? Cause you know, you have a baseline of a shape that before you talked was like a intersection of like higher dimensional entities and where they're crossing over. I'm not sure if you're using the same conceit here, but. Here you have the actual shapes of the blur. It's that seemed like at least the archetypal structure, but that structure is fluid and it shifts and it changes. And so not quite sure how you achieve that, but there seems to be even within the shapes of these things that they're constantly morphing and changing.

[00:43:40.982] Kevin Mack: Yes. Um, that's all again, a variation on the shader that's done in the shader. It's essentially vertex animation, but it's procedural and, and then they have control over those parameters so that they can use the shader parameters to express themselves in terms of how fast they wiggle or what part of their body they wiggle and, and all of that. Yeah. You know, it's not all that different from the way you animate water in unity or any kind of a fluid thing. They are topologically consistent. There is a continuous polygonal geometry for them. I'd love to do it, you know, in a true volumetric way. They're generated, the geometry is created in Houdini and that's done with all manner of tools with, you know, real fluid stuff and volumetric representations and so on. Metaballs, whatever, but it's a fixed geometry. It's just that I've developed shader tricks that make it really hard to tell that there is continuous topology there. And they'll occasionally self-intersect a little bit, but I've tried to make it so that that's pretty unusual. It mostly feels pretty coherent. And they do have, you know, it's a variety of things that they can do with the shader to change their shape. They might get kind of rigid or they might get more angular or they might get very soft.

[00:45:13.993] Kent Bye: Yeah, I'd love to hear a little bit more about the machine learning or AI neural architectures, whether or not you're using stuff like recurrent neural networks or convolutional neural networks or deep learning and what kind of network architectures you have to be able to train these and what the process of training them actually look like.

[00:45:32.707] Kevin Mack: Well, um, you might be surprised to learn that I don't use machine learning. or neural networks, even though I really would love to and have explored them for decades. I just found that for what I was doing, it was an unnecessary level of complexity that would really limit what I could do. Of course, neural networks and machine learning are so good at solving specific problems, but everybody's always writing and talking about how they're not very good at generalization. Even with the limited range of behavior I was looking at, it seemed like it might be unwieldy and even harder to control. And that really goes back to the thing, and I struggle with this because You know, my initial ideas for all this back in the 90s was that it had to be bottom up. It had to be evolved. It had to learn. It had to do all these things. And I've wound up kind of turning that back around to like, well, no, I think I want to kind of hybrid system where some of the stuff is like that, but that I can actually engineer things in a specific way that still engineered in a way that I can't predict what it will do. And for a while I thought, well, is this even AI? Because it's not using machine learning or neural networks. But in thinking about when you look at steering behavior and even looking at particle systems, which is not how I'm doing it, but even humans are really just steering behavior. It's very, very complex steering behavior. All of the sort of rules and the stuff that goes on in the neural network and all the learning and everything is what then creates the motivations for those behaviors. But you have an array of behaviors. You can wiggle your finger. You can talk with your tongue. You're basically steering all of these motor neurons to do stuff. And so I thought, well, if I just think of it that way, then I can build a system where a lot of the complexity is kind of implicit in the function. Like you can actually, for parts of even the human brain, some little neural circuitry are so well understood that even though it might take 100,000 neurons or whatever, a million neurons for that little circuit to work, that that actual part can be represented with a simple statistical function. You can rewrite that thing and get rid of all the neurons and just have a function. So that's kind of the approach I'm taking.

[00:48:23.337] Kent Bye: Okay. Yeah. That makes sense. Especially because these are algorithms that are feedback loops in terms of they're actually taking input. So maybe you could describe all of the ways in which that these boards are either taking input from the interactor, the person who's flying around and interacting with them, the other boards and the music and the world around them.

[00:48:44.066] Kevin Mack: Yes. They are aware of their own location. They're aware of their orientation and what their shape and their general state. And then they're aware of the states of the other glorts in their vicinity. They're aware of the environment they're in. And they are in zones. I had to limit them to zones within the labyrinth in order to have 130 of them because they're pretty high res. So I can only have a handful of them active at any given time. So that's how I simplified that problem. But they are aware of the visitors, they know where your controllers are, and if you're gesturing and how you're gesturing, they see all that. And if you signal them, if you talk to them with their language, they hear that. They are aware of your movement, your speed, you know, all of these things. And they're very focused on how near or far they are to things like each other or like you or like surfaces and whatnot. Yeah, there's more to it than that, but those are kind of the big ones. The other thing, oh, that's the other thing. They're aware of their own state. So what's going on in their mind, they know what they're doing. They know what they're thinking. They know what they want to do and what they've done. And they also know what you did and what you've done and for a fairly short period of time. But they do have that ability. They're getting feedback from a number of sources.

[00:50:24.251] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I noticed there's different sizes, like there's little bitty ones, there's the normal size, and then maybe a little extra normal, and then there's some really large ones that I came across in a special section that people can find if they explore around enough in this kind of zen sky garden place. But maybe you could talk about the different scales of these things, because there's sort of the small, medium, large, extra large sizes of these boards. Yes.

[00:50:53.070] Kevin Mack: Well, initially I created the Blorts to be human scale. Even though there's nothing in their world, nothing human or remotely, you know, nothing we know of our world within their world, it's all abstract. It is very much designed as a human experience. So there's a human scale to it all. And a human level of the complexity is all scaled to kind of this ideal area of interest for human beings. But then it was like, well, I'd made a bunch of them, and I kind of wanted to like, well, I need to make some little ones or some big ones. And so I started making some real big ones. And that was like, wow, that's crazy cool. At first, one of the things I wanted to try to avoid was making them threatening. And initially, some of the big ones were kind of like, whoa, that is intimidating. But I found I got used to them pretty quick. And in sharing with people, I found people weren't really afraid of them. And especially if they move a little slower when they're bigger, which they do. So many of the things are scaled with their size, although there is some cognitive dissonance in there with some of the small ones might have a deep voice and some of the big ones might have a real high voice. So yeah, that was just to try to keep that novelty thing perpetual. I think the colossal ones, there's the colossal deities in the Sky Shrine. And that was really fun because that was kind of done after the labyrinth was all done and filled with blorts. I wanted to create just an area where it's like this is a special place that goes beyond the labyrinth. And I wanted to treat it like a shrine, like this is where the blorts go to meditate and to commune with the infinite. And so I created these five deity blorts. which are really colossal, and it was great because there's so few blorts in this area, and you don't see the rest of the labyrinth. I had a bigger budget for polygons and textures and everything, so they even cast shadows.

[00:53:00.438] Kent Bye: Yeah, I stumbled across the SkyShine and it was, again, another one of those deeply awe-inspiring moments of discovery that I was able to find something like that. So, yeah, I encourage folks to kind of look out for that. And, yeah, as we start to wrap up here, I'm just curious for you what you think the ultimate potential of virtual reality and this type of immersive art might be and what it might be able to enable.

[00:53:25.636] Kevin Mack: Yes. Well, every time you ask me, I think on it, and then sometimes I don't come up with the answer I really meant. Later, I always go like, oh, I should have said. So this time, I'm going to go with, I think the ultimate potential of VR is to be able to dissolve the boundaries, real or imagined, between reality and imagination. And I think that there's this great potential for us to be able to transcend the limitations of our world in virtual reality and to see the potential for us to transcend the limitations of the physical world in the physical world by being able to do it in virtual reality.

[00:54:15.549] Kent Bye: Yeah, as you say that, I just remember back to our conversations at the Experiential Technology Conference a number of years ago, we were talking about the neuroscience applications and just how these experiences like this kind of put us into a certain brainwave state that has this transcendent transformational technology potential that I don't know, there's something about these moments of awe that it feels like a healing process in some ways that I can't necessarily fully articulate, but I can know that it's got some calming effect. But I know that you were talking about how stuff like Bortezer were being used by brain surgeons to be able to be kind of like a, to stimulate the brain in a way that they could actually help with brain surgery. But I think as you're talking about these sort of transcending limitations, it seems like there's some very direct neuroscience implications of experiences like this that are able to potentially be used as well.

[00:55:07.976] Kevin Mack: Yes. Zen parade was used during 30 awake brain surgeries as a hypno analgesic to treat anxiety and pain. And then there was also Blortasia has been used in hypnotherapy practices regularly where they've discovered that it actually puts people into a receptive state without any effort on the part of the hypnotherapist. And then they're able to actually conduct sessions while the person is in Blortasia and it keeps them in a very suggestive open state. And they've done this with autistic children as well. It allows them to become much more focused and much more present. So there are huge applications there. I think for me, my biggest intention and motivation was artistic in terms of generating awe. I never thought of awe as a neuroscience or a therapeutic element. I was just interested in what I got into the neuroscience of it to figure out, well, how can I make better art through science? How can I understand what it is I experience when I see the Grand Canyon or I see a great work of art and, you know, what's happening in my brain when that happens? And of course that led to what is now the whole science of awe is this huge thing where they've proven it's you know, incredibly therapeutic physically and psychologically. And it has this incredible ability to inspire what's known as accommodation. So when you have a transcendent experience of awe, you're able to, basically you've had an experience that exceeds your mental schema or your model of reality. and you're forced to re-evaluate and reform your mental schema and your idea of your own identity and so on. And so in that process, which is known as accommodation, my theory is that there's other things that go on and that you wind up picking up, you know, in the course of our lives, we get little things where we're reminded like, Boy, you should really cut down on the cheese, or whatever. You should call your brother more often, or whatever it is. There's these things, behavioral things, personality things. I shouldn't be so quick to fly off the handle, whatever it is. And you kind of know them about yourself. But it's really hard to change. Habits are hard to break. And what they found with transcendent experiences of awe is that it leads to this reaccommodation and often I think a lot of those things that may have built up just get kind of picked up in the process like yeah well while you're at it let's just be nicer to your cousin or you know whatever it is be more patient when you're waiting in line or Whatever those things are, they get accommodated as well. And so it can lead to real lasting positive changes in personality and attitude and higher levels of well-being.

[00:58:25.113] Kent Bye: Yeah. And I don't know if we may have talked about this before, but the whole idea of brain entrainment and there's audio entrainment through binaural beats that have different frequencies in each ear that create a difference in your ear that sort of entrains your brain into certain brave wave frequencies and states. I don't know if there's an equivalent visual entrainment, but I feel like there are on a dollar. It's the closest I've experienced of having that type of visual entrainment in a VR experience.

[00:58:50.882] Kevin Mack: Yes, it's actually, that's another whole area of study in neuroscience now, is what happens in our brain when we stare into a campfire or when we look at water, when you watch the waves or the surf or just the ripples on your swimming pool, the caustics on the wall from the pool, whatever, any kind of fluid motion seems to have an entraining effect on the brain and a calming one. It puts us in a particular brain state. And again, this wasn't necessarily my first idea when I was making this stuff. I made it because I thought it looked good. But later you learn like, oh, there's a reason it looks good and feels good because it's doing this thing to your brain. And so my shaders, the way things move, the rate at which they move, and so on. I've spent a lot of time trying to target sort of magic frequencies of motion, as well as audio. And so, yeah, that's really, it's just trial and error, trying different speeds, different amplitudes of things of movement. And that movement, well, okay, that's hypnotic, that's doing it. you know, it's not one magic frequency. There's a bunch of them. They're like musical notes or chords. It's like, ooh, that one feels sad or that one feels, you know, exhilarating or whatever. I think there are flavors to it or notes to it. And that then relates it to the audio entrainment, which with binaural beats or, you know, there's other forms of it, but it's essentially just frequency entrainment of the brain. and you get to particular states, alpha, theta, et cetera, even gamma. And what I found was, yeah, it's definitely effective. It's shown it works. It does its thing. It takes a while, but it works. But then I started looking at it as, OK, well, what about, you know, what's music doing? What's the thing? And you realize, oh, it's all brainwave entrainment. Everything we're doing is brainwave entrainment. It's just, what frequency are you entraining to? And the brain's really complex. and you're not entraining to a single frequency, different areas are syncing to different things. I also found it very interesting that meditating monks that get to a theta frequency when they're kind of in a deep trance, that there are spikes of gamma frequency, you know, 30 hertz, they're just like these big spikes within this theta, And that's somehow like these moments of ecstatic bliss or whatever. And so you realize, well, you don't want to necessarily just entrain to one frequency. So I've tried to develop my own kind of ad hoc experimental process to create my own forms of brainwave entrainment, which probably would be difficult to measure or test because I'm not aiming for one specific frequency. It's more of a musical approach or an orchestra.

[01:01:56.000] Kent Bye: Yeah, as we start to have more biofeedback systems, I think we'll be able to dial that in a little bit more in terms of trying to focus specific brainwave entrainment frequencies, but also the types of fluid dynamics that you have are more abstracted. They're not an exact replica of, say, the Navier-Stokes equations of fluid dynamics, or I think there's a lot of physics things that I think have that calming effect that I see some art that's starting to do that within the immersive space. But again, it's process heavy and intensive types of things that usually need to be either calculated or pre-rendered out. But doing all that in real time, I think is one of the things that I would love to see in the future is more of those different types of calming patterns, whatever those end up being. Let's start to see a range of those different things within an experience as well. I feel like that's kind of where we're we're going because we're in a space where we're hitting some of those frequencies, but having a diversity of those to be able to kind of have a diversity of the ways that we can entrain our brains into different ways of feeling. And then for us to be able to kind of discern those different phenomenological modalities of those qualities of experience based upon those input. But yeah, this whole consciousness hacking thing, I think there's a lot of potential to use experiences like this in addition to what they say in the conscious hacking is the stacking. combining things together while either maybe listening to something or doing something leading up to this. And maybe this is leading you into going into doing a psychedelic treatment for PTSD or trauma, or to be able to come out of experiences. So the onboarding and offboarding of psychedelic treatments and other area where I see that these types of experiences are going to be a big part of, you know, talking to the sound self and Robin Arnott and experiences they have. And Trip also recently is starting to do that type of onboarding and offboarding into psychedelic therapies. And so, yeah, I feel like we're on the cusp of some psychedelic revolutions and experiences like this could help the process of the onboarding and offboarding of people going into transformative work with the assistance of psychedelics.

[01:03:54.778] Kevin Mack: Yes, that's an area I'm very, very interested in. I think in a sense, my work is very much about creating a similar transcendent experience of awe as a psychedelic experience. It's not the same, you know, I'm not trying to create the same archetypes that show up in all of the psychedelic art, the geometric patterns and so on, but more my own personal visions and other areas of it. I think your earlier point about the nature of fluid movement and so on, is interesting because they're now just studying that in neuroscience. And of course, being the arrogant artist, when I would shoot images of water or fire, I'd look at them and go, yeah, that's really, really cool. I could look at that for hours. But what happens if you slow it down? You put it in slow motion, and it's like, yeah, that's better. That's better fire. And in fact, I did a movie, Ghost Rider, and we did CG fire. It was the first movie to really have a big feature of actual simulated fire. So there was a big R&D thing with it and everything. And we shot a lot of tests of real fire and really studied it and built a real accurate simulation. And one thing is that it's hard to photograph because it's bright and it blows out the frame. So it just looks white and it doesn't look very good. And then the other thing is it's just so fast, you can't really, it's just chaotic. And so, you know, I cheated. I just said, let's make it look a little better. We'll slow it down just a little bit and then we'll fake the exposure a little bit so you get some of those pretty colors. And, you know, it looks really real, but it's kind of better than real. And so I'm always trying to improve on reality and nature. And I think that's one of the things is just finding those speeds at which things happen. and those sort of magic frequencies that I think will be helpful in being able to produce specific states for the onboarding and offboarding in psychedelic experiences and research and whatnot. I had one person saw Vortexia many years ago at an art opening, and she said what I think was just like one of the greatest compliments ever. she said she came out of it she's like tears coming down her face she was so ecstatic from the experience and she said that's what i wanted psychedelics to be like the psychedelic thing was kind of like oh okay that's so okay but lortasia was like that's what i wanted it to be and i just like wow okay that's good and that's kind of you know a fair thing you know the psychedelic experiences can be pretty It's strenuous, it can have downsides. And so I like this idea. There's a lot of people who would just never take any psychedelics or can't for whatever reason. And I think Anandala provides a nice alternative for that kind of thing as well. And sometimes it's just nice to be able to have a more moderate experience of transcendent awe than the knock you out for three days and you can't speak kind of level.

[01:07:25.687] Kent Bye: Right. Right. Yeah, totally. Um, and anything else that's left and said that you'd like to say to the immersive community?

[01:07:34.633] Kevin Mack: Carry on, boy, we got to keep going. It's a exciting time. It's still so early. It's taken so much longer than I thought it would. And we'll continue to take much longer than anyone wants it to, but it's inevitable. And the future is very, very exciting.

[01:07:54.493] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, Kevin, thanks so much for creating Anandala and sort of helping manifest these blurts into their full potential of existence and reality for them to interact with us and for us to interact with them. And yeah, I hope that people get a chance to check out Anandala because it's, for me, one of the most infinite novelty, inspiring, and awe-inspiring experiences that I've seen in VR. And, you know, it's a type of experience I can go in there and just watch it for hours because it's just so fascinating. Yeah. Thanks again for creating it and congratulations for showing it here at Venice. And thanks for coming on and unpacking your process and journey with it a little bit more here.

[01:08:32.056] Kevin Mack: Thank you so much. I really, really appreciate being on here and talking with you. And really it just, it means the world to me when you can speak about the stuff so articulately and describe it, uh, you know, better than I can. I really, I love that. Thank you.

[01:08:49.772] Kent Bye: for sharing. Yeah, you're welcome. So that was Kevin Mac. He's the creator of Anandala, which was premiering at the Venice Film Festival of 2021. So I actually had a chance to see this piece about three years ago in 2018. And just to see it get to this point of working on it for as long as he's been working on it and having all of these different boards. And I do remember the very first interaction I had with the board back in 2018. It was just really intriguing because it really felt like it was responding to me and listening to me in a way. I think I had the same experience here, but on a whole new level of different types of engagements and interactions that I've had with these boards. They're just interesting to think about AI as a way of being embodied and how it's in relationship to your body, but also your movement and different actions that you're taking. to see the different types of behaviors that are emergent from a basis of this generative art that is heuristically driven. It's not machine learning. It's not artificial intelligence, although it's up to debate for what that exactly means. Can you still replicate different aspects of that? Like Kevin was saying, a lot of the machine learning can get boiled down into these statistical representations. Machine learning can be kind of a function approximator. He's just writing the function rather than doing the function approximator process. But at the end of the result is that it does feel like they're very dynamic and alive in a certain way. So yeah, very intriguing and I hope that he finds some way to be able to make it available for people to try it out on a more widely basis. I mean, it's a project like this that probably will end up in a gallery or maybe he'll choose to release it to the public based upon some of the different reactions he's getting. I think having the right context for pieces like this and for people to really understand what it's about, I think something like the Venice Film Festival really helps set that broader context. Yeah, just really excited to see this as a piece of VR art that, for me, I just find so compelling and just love to spend time in there. It's really relaxing and just puts me into this altered state of consciousness. And yeah, like I said, some of the deepest experiences of awe and wonder that I've had within virtual reality. So that's all I have for today and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of ER podcast And if you enjoyed the podcast and please do spread the word tell your friends and consider becoming a member of the patreon This is a this is part of podcast and I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue bringing you this coverage So you could become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash which is VR. Thanks for listening

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