Reality Mixer By The in.Flux Lab
By Anne McKinnon
The first quarterly in.Flux Reality Mixer took off on Saturday Dec. 01 as a pop-up innovation lounge, blending TED-style talks with immersive technology demos and digital art installations.
From curated conversations, augmented reality demos, and virtual immersion stations we heard from a number of voices in VR, AR and the digital arts on a range of topics from This Is Your Brain On VR to Virtual Love, Sex, & Companionship.
"The visual system is the most dominant of all your senses... and VR has some very powerful effects on the brain, " said Dr. Sook-Lei Liew, Assistant Professor and Director of USC's Neural Plasticity and Neuro-rehabilitation Lab.
Aside from research, VR and AR is primarily used as a medium for entertainment. It's a unique storytelling tool, and also a way to extend the life of IP and content, "having it live beyond the 92 minute confines of a movie," said Gil Baron, CEO & Founder of Mindshow.
He describes VR as an extended universe that doesn't replace original content, but offers a new narrative.
For example, Pokemon Go doesn't replace the original, but offers a new experience altogether, said Isabella Schloss, Associate CG Producer and Narrative Designer at Ayzenberg.
A part of the challenge is working with tools that can both help and hinder the creative process. "They are very young, glitchy, and with a lot of pre-sets," she said.
Even communicating the idea of AR art can be a challenge, "the terminology is so much, and it gets overwhelming," she said. AR art is a new concept, but it also has so much to offer. Placing AR art in sites of cultural and historical significance gives it context. It has a completely different resonance in a gallery or event, compared to out in public spaces, she said.
Her work "Unprotected" can be viewed outside the Supreme Court in DC, as a piece about equality that applies to all victims of sexual assault. "Hurt Colors" is best viewed from an open lot across from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas where 58 people were killed in a shooting earlier this year.
From art, to advertising, Michael Rucker, Co-founder & COO at OmniVirt, CTO Mark Giles from Empact Labs and Jordan Newman, Head of Business Development at Jaunt XR spoke about augmenting the consumer experience.
"We have a really strong performance message," said Rucker, where at Omnivirt, they show statistics and test results to their clients across different mediums.
Mark Giles from Empact Labs also accentuates the numerous data points they analyse. They even have artificial intelligence that does sentiment analysis to see how someone is feeling at the time they view content.
The major question is always, why is AR/VR advertising worth the attention? People are consuming content in new ways, especially the younger kids, said Newman. We are still generating content for small 2D screens, and kids want to interact, “We need mediums that are just as complex as the devices in our pocket," he said.
Speaking of your not so typical reality mixer event, Philip Rosedale, Founder of High Fidelity and Second Life, with Ela Darling, pornographic actress and Co-Founder of virtual reality company VRTube.xxx, and Tom Boellstorff, Professor of Anthropology, UC Irvine followed with an intimate conversation on virtual love, sex and companionship.
“As we find new ways to be intimate, we use them. When we find technology that enables that like VR, we jump on it," said Rosedale.
Darling spoke about her experience interacting with her viewers in different virtual settings like her bedroom, and about why she doesn't use avatars to embody her viewers. At the moment, there's no way for avatars to accurately represent the diversity that we see in people, she said.
Avatars in High Fidelity
Cover image: SCOTT LISTFIELD