The Future of VR

by Deborah Rodrigues, Glück Workshops

A (very personal) impression of the Japan-UK knowledge exchange network in VR that happened in Tokyo in June, 2019. Day 4 of 4.

It was our last day and I was excited about the prospects waiting for us. The first was teamLab Borderless, a group of artworks that form one borderless world. Artworks move out of rooms, communicate with other works, influence, and sometimes intermingle with each other with no boundaries.

Projection mapping in a gigantic space

You can see a video showing a little bit of the exhibition:

Personally it was a nice way to start my day, to just be walking and exploring their worlds — I also enjoyed the sound design. Most people were not really paying attention to anything, really. They were just taking selfies. It reminded me of Eleanor who told me that “a lot of art today is made for selfies”. It’s so true! There’s an obsession with self image today, and specially in Japan I saw a lot of people making faces to their phones everywhere I went. I wonder if it’s just a fad, and if VR will change the relationship with the selfie, since in VR you can become what and who you want.

Angus tweeted his super interesting viewpoints on the exhibition and you can read the thread:

My favourite bit of the exhibition was the children’s spaces:

I loved the interaction between physical and digital and was able to film a couple of my favourite parts for you:

The simple character design for this installation is so perfect and it reminds me of the way children draw. The combination of wooden objects and projections is also a plus.

Sound design was also cool:

This room was for smaller children and contained cushioned objects that they could reorganize around the room, recreating landscapes for storytelling:

One of the installations particularly called my attention, because it brought an idea I’ve done in one of my workshops with children a couple of years ago: children draw a fish on paper, which is then scanned and added to a projected ocean.

The station where everyone could draw with the ocean on the background

The scanning process is super cool:

Here’s my workshop with the same concept:

Next, Kei brings us to an arcade created by Sega called Joypolis, which made me want to spend the whole day inside (too bad we didn’t have time!):

Left to right: Kei, John, Eleanor, Dylan, Angus and I: the UK-Japan VR network; and on the right, the entrance of Joypolis that greets everyone that comes in!

At Joypolis we tried THE BEST VR experience ever: Zero Latency VR! According to their website, “The main features of “ZERO LATENCY VR” are “Free Roam” where players can move actively and “Six-players simultaneous play” where you can play cooperatively with other players. With the latest VR technology using head-mounted display (HMD) and the free roam and multiplayer gameplay, you can experience an overwhelming sense of immersion in virtual reality.” This is all true. We got into our gear:

Getting ready to save humanity!
On the left: Eleanor gets familiar with her gun (and saves our lives afterwards, thank you Eleanor!) / on the right: we’re ready to play!

They open a big sliding door to a huge space. On the floor there are numbers where we’re supposed to stand and wait to for the VR to do its magic and recognise us — it was amazing to see and hear everyone in another dimension. The story starts and suddenly we’re separated into two groups of three people. I’m with Kei and John but I can hear the others talking as well. Now, I have to say I’m pretty used to playing these kind of shooting games especially with zombies, as I love to play Walking Dead, but I was NOT ready for what was coming. The zombies started coming from all over the place, and trying to protect my friends it became overwhelmingly stressful for me. My brain completely forgot that I was in a game and started to freak out with fear! I was so afraid that I started screaming and I could hear my friends screaming as well. Suddenly we all heard the voice of reason saying “It’s all right, this is just a game! Remember, you can just remove your masks!” Thank you Angus! It was a mix of really joyful, scary and a nonsensical experience.

Here’s a video showing what I’m trying to explain (apparently they have this same experience in Nottingham as well!):

After the game is over, we go outside and see the score:

As you can see, Eleanor ROCKED and Angus didn’t die ONCE! I was in good company.

I freaking loved it! I believe this is the future of VR, games where you meet your friends and go through adventurous stories together. And this concept could be explored in so many different directions with children as well. Really makes my imagination flow with ideas!

Later that day I asked the group what would have happened if we had started the week with this game. I thought it was very sensible of Kei to bring us to the zombies only at the final round of immersive experiences.

We had ten minutes left and so we played with Purikura (Dylan wrote about it here):

We said goodbye to Kei and went to the University of Tokyo, and tried “Shadow after Shadow” by Kota Isobe, in which he has explored ways of allowing interaction with people across the physical and virtual domains in VR. I wrote about it here.

The day (and week) finished with our talks about Virtual Reality, childhood, creative intelligence, mess and play, children’s play, storytelling and physical computing to a class of students of the University of Tokyo.

I’m very grateful to have participated in this research. I have a new comprehension of the extent of creativity that VR offers and I think of new ideas to work with children in creating immersive experiences for them and for adults. I see incredible potential for interaction of all generations of human beings, creating together in VR!

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