HKU Virtual Inspirations, the BlackBox and more on the XR Tour!

The XR Tour made connections with the Stichting Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht! Joris Weijdom welcomed our Tour to the Blackbox at the HKU Design | Games en Interactie | Muziek en Technologie building. The XR Tour Team became both participants and creators in the VR simulations made by students.

The world of XR as seen through art and virtual collaboration

The XR tour got to enjoy something special this last Wednesday at the Blackbox room in HKU. Led by third year Bachelor students doing the HKU Minor XR course students, the SURF XR Tour got to be test-dummies for virtual reality projects that had been in development for about three weeks. With the help and vision of Joris Weijdom, student creations are expected to consider both inside and outside perspectives of these (virtual) experiences. In other words, this experience is shared not just by those in the headset, but also by those watching. Essentially, it means considering the audience, the atmosphere you create and the collaborative processes that it all emerges from.

Two particpants undergoing a virtual 'first date' at the Blackbox
Two particpants undergoing a virtual 'first date' at the Blackbox, audience included

What is the Blackbox?

"In the Blackbox you can experiment, research, design and create. You get to work with innovative technologies, for example virtual reality, motion capture technology, projection mapping, green screen video recording with controlled light, spatial audio, interaction with sensors and theater lighting. Here you test and research the interaction between your work and the audience."

The 'DJ of love' controlling the virutal world of the headset wearers on their virtual date with a mini controller.
The 'DJ of love' controlling the virutal world of the headset wearers on their virtual date with a mini controller.

Anything that can go wrong, might

The created works of the student also left room for mistakes and new challenges. Our XR Tour participants got to be in their own virtual train heist, with real chairs to block moving around on the (virtual) train coupes. Collaborating as a team meant working with tools and passing along information between train coupes. Opening doors, cutting wires and looking for an escape on a moving train made for a thrilling (and sometimes nauseating) experience! Unfortunately, as the participants in the virtual headset came to their vault, they found a new problem for the students to solve. The participants were able to walk through doors on the (virtual) train and grab the entire front coupe as an object, throwing the entire simulation into a dizzying assortment of colors and glitch art.

For the students, this was entirely part of the learning and creation process. They were grateful to see us use their simulation in ways they did not expect as well as in the end, have a lot of fun doing it.

XR participant trying his best to figure out what to do on a very fast moving virtual train
XR participant trying his best to figure out what to do on a very fast moving virtual train

Puppeteering and Design Collaboration

Students continue to produce new simulations that make a lasting impression on both Joris and his team. While the audience is certainly important, works such as 'Junk' and 'Dreams Under Construction' are just a few examples that remind us that the physical body is also important to remember in making simulations. Embodied design methods include the physical body and its direct experience in the design process, which in turn requires interdisciplinary vocabulary to share and evaluate these projects. These students often used an existing Social VR platform NEOS VR to develop such simulations.

For now, the students that the XR Tour met will have until about the end of January 2023 to finish up (or even completely change) their simulations. After seeing these simulations, our XR team is excited for what these students will come up with next.

 

Find out more:

Joris's contact and research: https://www.hku.nl/en/research/professorships/performative-creative-processes/phd-research-joris-weijdom

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