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Cairns | Connecting Virtual Reality & Physical Space

Cairns is an experimental project exploring new ways of interaction, by connecting the physical and the virtual space. Using an HTC Vive, a Kinect V2, A projector (first placed below a surface, then above) and a surface with moveable objects. These objects are scanned by the Kinect, scaled and translated into a massive 3D Mesh (x100) which the player can explore in VR, in real-time. The changes performed in the VR world are then projected back onto the surface with the projector, to close the feedback loop of interaction between both worlds. 

Below a sketch of the set-up we used, in this example with the projector still under the surface, later then moved up next to the Kinect


Cairns was highly experimental and based on a lot of trial and error, a process which allowed us to focus on how our technologies work and what the best way might be to apply them. This first goal for our project was to build a functional tool for theatre set design. Half-way through our project, we had to reconsider, since the resolution of the Kinect V2 is too low for this specific sort of application.

So our decision was to create a more explorative, inclusive, immersive and audiovisual installation. We distanced ourselves from the theatre concept and gave players, both in the virtual and physical space, more agency and interaction with one another. The player in the VR world would be able to spawn objects emitting a procedural sound and moving in a flocking-like way. 

Below a few of the materials we tried out as scanned object in the physical space. In the end, we opted for the foam blocks.
Below that is a longer video compilation of smaller shots taken throughout the project. 


We designed some abstract shapes in Blender that would serve as spawned object in the virtual world, emitting strange sounds and being projected on the surface in the physical space, connected by a red line to visualise the path the player takes in the virtual world. 

Above is a wireframe of the shape placed on the main protagonist, below a screencast of some of the intermediary versions of our virtual world, and below that a view of the projection displaying a multitude of objects connected by a red line. 


We exhibitied our project 3 times. Each presentation helped us improve our project and implement changes that made the experience increasingly interactive. The core concept of this project could have a future applications and prove very fruitful in theatre, games and even puppetry. 

Below some pictures of our presentation in Berlin Mitte, at an exhibition held by Experience One. 


Credits and thanks to

Pablo Dornhege for supervising our project, giving us great input and making his superman script available to us
Chris Kirkham for his great boid project 

Jasper Flick from Catlikecoding for the very helpful tutorial on object management 
--> https://catlikecoding.com/unity/tutorials/object-management/

Benjamin Outram for his procedural audio code 
--> http://www.benjaminoutram.com/blog/2018/7/13/procedural-audio-in-unity-noise-and-tone

Cairns | Connecting Virtual Reality & Physical Space

Cairns | Connecting Virtual Reality & Physical Space

Cairns is an experiential installation connecting VR to the physical world with the use of infrared depth mapping. A cairn is a mound of stone, o Read More