PROJECT TYPE: XR experience @ IAlab (http://www.interactivearchitecture.org)
EXHIBITED: Ars Electronica, 2018, Austria.
EXHIBITED: Ars Electronica, 2018, Austria.
How do we move? How are we moved?
What if interactions could broaden our everyday choreographies?
(Un)Balance is a series of experiences in XR inviting participants to play on the edge of stability. It combines physical and virtual tools to create realities encouraging participants to explore new movement. As such, those realities become choreographic tools for dancers but also non-dancers.
In this aim, (Un)Balance implements notions of both mindfulness and play. On one hand, the experiences intend to heighten the participant's awareness of the body and the world through the use of multi-sensory stimuli (visual, haptic, sound). On the other, they trigger actions guided by curiosity through unpredictable patterns of responses and spatial illusions.
Today interactions tend to limit and control our movements, disengaging us from our bodies in the name of efficiency. In this context (Un)Balance questions how human-machine and human-spaces interactions could be rethought to push us to move freely.
On a technical point of view it explores the notion of embodiment in XR. Where most XR experiences deprive its participants from embodiment, here (Un)Balance rather explores the potential of XR to augment embodiment.
(Un)Balance is a project currently in development within the Interactive Architecture Lab. The latest prototype was exhibited this September at the Ars Electronica Festival, Austria.
The above video shows the latest prototype of (Un)Balance. The components used in this prototype are a tilting platform, combined with an apparel physically augmenting the participant's sense of balance, and a virtual world virtually augmenting it.
The role of the tilting platformis to bring the participant's sense of balance to its limitsthrough requiring a higher level of balance control, as well as encouraging an exploration of those limits. The 2.20mx2.20m tilting platform pivots around its centre point and is cushioned with foam blocks. It responds in a linear way to the movements of the participants. The participant also wears a climbing harness, aiming at encouraging a certain openness to experience, a playful exploratory attitude by diminishing fear of falling.
The second component is an apparel physically augmenting the participant's sense of balancewhich aim is to bring the attention of participant towards the bodily sensations involved in balancing such as weight shifting and muscles tensing. The vest, strapped closely to the body, places three tubes half filled with 1.5kg of lead bids on the upper part of the back. As the participant moves, the beads shift within the tubes, displacing an additional weight left and right of the body. The beads sliding inside the tubes also create a sound feedback of these shifts of weight. The response of the vest to the participant’s movements is linear.
Bellow is a collection of previous prototypes, exploring different locations on the body and different materials.
Finally a virtual worldaims at augmenting the participant’s bodily sensation of weight shifting as he/she moves and balances, through a visual sensory input. It is designed in Unity 3D and transformed into a VR experience using the HTC Vive, two HTC Vive trackers and the steamVR for Unity 3D plug-in. One tracker is placed on the platform, allowing to track its position and rotation angle. The second one is placed on the front of the participant torso, allowing to track the position and movements of the participant’s upper body. The participant's torso becomes an emitter of spherical particles which are attracted by a so-called virtual gravity, influenced equally by the changing rotation angle of the platform, and the tilts of the participants torso. The influence of the gravity on the particles’ behaviour fluctuates throughout the experience, making the particles respond more or less linearly to the participant’s movements. This pattern of response of the environment is therefor unpredictable, allowing to not only bring the attention of the participant towards the body and the world, but also sustaining it.
Exhibiting different prototypes of (Un)Balance has allowed me to observe participant's behaviours as well as to gather informal feedback. The findings that emerged will guide the development of (Un)Balance into a final design. Some of these are the openness to experience facilitated by VR and play, the interaction of different elements in allowing the attention to flow, the importance of balancing different sensory inputs in allowing general awareness, and the role of unpredictable patterns of response in triggering sustained attention.