August 20, 2019
An interdisciplinary group of graduate students meet weekly to research the possibilities, both technical and conceptual, of bended reality, with a focus on augmented and virtual reality experiences. Aspects of their research will be made accessible to the broader Yale community through regular participant-led public workshops and, ultimately, an exhibition. By generating work and dialogue about emerging technologies, and opening their research to the public, the group will create a platform on campus for experimentation and exploration of blended reality.
- Justin Berry, core faculty, Center for Collaborative Arts and Media; critic, Yale School of Art, Yale University
- Michael Commendatore, Yale School of Drama ’17 (projection)
- Young Joo Lee, Yale School of Art ’17 (sculpture)
- Teddy Mathias, Yale School of Art ’17 (graphic design)
- Will Wheeler, Yale School of Art ’17 (sculpture)
- Wladmiro Woyno Rodriguez, Yale School of Drama ’18 (projection)
- HTC Vive Virtual Reality System
Human beings are storytellers, and the arts are the vehicles through which our stories are told, heard, and remembered. For centuries, we told stories through painting and sculpture, through song, dance and theater. The printing press, the camera, and film — each revolutionary in its time — opened vast new possibilities; those possibilities expanded again when radio and television came on the scene.
With digital technologies both enabling and requiring new ways of thinking, seeing and communicating, the Crossroads project team took as its challenge the creation of augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) experiences using interactive and immersive media technologies. “Our goals,” says faculty member Justin Berry, “were to enable interdisciplinary research with emergent technologies in the arts areas at Yale, and foster interdisciplinary dialogues among the arts.” He notes that they also wanted to establish a platform for sharing knowledge and research with the broader Yale community in the areas of AR/VR, using mixed reality tools.
To those ends, the team of five graduate students from the School of Art and the School of Drama, led by Berry, conducted research that pushed boundaries of interaction and immersion through a series of projects that created AR/VR experiences. The individual and collaborative research conducted by team members, who participated in weekly meetings, resulted in a dozen free workshops offered to the entire Yale community throughout the spring 2017 semester.
Thematically, the workshops explored topics including psycho‐spatial interaction, gaming and social interaction, animation, and the psychological affects of kinetic perception. Workshop participants — who did not need any prior knowledge of the technology for most of the sessions — could learn how to perform 3-D scans, build a mixed reality musical instrument, capture live performance using a 360 degree camera, or interact with their computers using tiny virtual hands. Student projects included animating virtual versions of traditional sculptures, augmented reality experiences that engaged acts of discovery in public spaces, interactive multimedia installation, and immersive animated video.
In addition, members of the Crossroads team and Blended Reality workshop participants organized an exhibition of VR works at Essex Flowers Gallery in downtown Manhattan. The exhibition, entitled The Sands, paid homage to one of Las Vegas Boulevard’s original hotel-casino complexes, with all the hyper-real qualities for which The Strip is famous.
Curated by members of the Crossroads team, fifteen works by sixteen participating artists offered virtual creations that visitors explored and interacted with as they walked around the empty real-life gallery space. The virtual gallery space was mapped at one-to-one scale with the physical gallery, creating landmark references that traversed both environments. Artworks were programmed to randomly enter and exit the gallery, creating a dynamic experience that ensured no two experiences in the virtual space would be exactly identical. Half of the show’s artists were participants in the Crossroads team’s spring workshops, including both Yale graduate students and faculty.
Looking back on a successful semester, Berry reflects on the larger significance of the team’s work. “We as a culture do not yet have a critical language to describe what it might mean to occupy two different kinds of reality,” he says. “I am proud that we wound up with a really good product, and that the work we did was so well-received. But even if we had not had such success, I would have been glad to create the context for dialogue and engagement. There is real, necessary, and practical value in having artists take apart these media, as artists do, to help all of us understand them better.”