Altering actuality: VR shifts the sport and finds its second
Virtual reality isn’t just for gamers. Artists, practice friends and actors in a new form of theater are now experimenting. And in experiences that have become more responsive, the player is no longer passive. Yes, the headsets are still too expensive, but the promises of VR are closer than ever. And during the social isolation enforced by coronaviruses, they bring alternative realities in times of fear. TODD MARTENS and DEBORAH VANKIN report on the innovations.
How I broke my VR skepticism and found emotional escape during the coronavirus protection
BY TODD MARTENS
Lose yourself in a virtual, interactive coloring book in “Color Space”.
All it took me to believe in virtual reality was for reality to break.
This was the thought I got in my VR headset after about 45 minutes on a Monday afternoon. I hardly moved. A forest surrounded me. A bird sat on a branch. My hand was holding a video game controller. But what I saw was a futuristic airbrush, a laser-like paint sprayer that looked like a prop from a 1940s science fiction movie.
One push of a button and I could color the world. The bird in front of me was purple. Then it was pink. Then blue. Then again pink. I shot the feathered creature with a random color as if I were flora, fauna and merryweather rolled into one and played with the chroma of the universe as if I alone had the power of the fairy godmothers of Sleeping Beauty.
Soon the alarm went off on my smartphone. This was my cue to remove the VR headset and turn on the radio to hear another sobering address from Mayor Eric Garcetti. I sat and stared as the LA Mayor spoke. My eyes drew a scratch on my coffee table. Illuminated by the late afternoon sun, the wear and tear had long since escaped my vision. After spending the day in an elevated version of reality, I was suddenly more attuned to my very real, very dusty environment. The enchanted world of “color space” seemed very far away. …
At home, in this headspace, is no place to play; It’s a place to hide in, at least until the pandemic comes to an end – or a declining market leads to an eviction. What’s first now feels like a toss. My home is no longer comforting.
In that moment I found virtual reality. And of course I was skeptical. … CONTINUE READING
Art Reality Studio equips artists with VR equipment and asks: What if?
BY DEBORAH VANKIN
A still image from Keith Tolch’s interactive virtual reality artwork “Glass Bottom Brain”, which was produced in the Art Reality Studio.
We’re in Keith Tolch’s brain. Like walking around in.
It’s a futuristic landscape, a labyrinth of empty rooms with high ceilings and bright, neon-lit floors, all in a palette of screaming pink, orange and lime green from the 80s. Random objects – a deconstructed Mustang from 1967, glass cubes full of swirling paint markings, delicate pencil drawings of butterflies and roosters – float past.
But wait. Without the padded plastic headset, we’re actually in a shiny Eagle Rock warehouse, a former auto body repair artist’s studio, and Tolch sits beaming behind a computer console.
His piece “Glass Bottom Brain” is an interactive work of art of virtual reality. This means that viewers put on a high-resolution headset and immerse themselves in an immersive 3D digital environment where they can navigate through parts of Tolch’s subconscious. He created the piece using expensive, state-of-the-art computing equipment, but Tolch didn’t invest a dime. The project was paid for, organized, and later exhibited by Art Reality Studio, a non-profit that equips contemporary artists with VR technology to push creative boundaries. It sees itself as an incubation laboratory for ultra-modern creativity and asks the question: “What if?”
“What happens when artists receive state-of-the-art technology without being tied to any conditions?” Says ARS co-founder Frank Masi. “We want to see how far they can go.” … CONTINUE READING
Actors staying at home appear in live VR experiences and advocate a new form of theater
Dasha Kittredge (left) and Haylee Nichele are actors for Tender Claws, an experimental game studio that makes virtual and augmented reality games.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
BY TODD MARTENS
LAST WEEK, on the verge of being late for a work-related call, I ran into a group of strangers. One of them snapped his fingers near my face. Another threw me a sword.
But I didn’t run. In the virtual reality world of “The Under Presents”, these actions are synonymous with instant friendship. I admired the sword, but put it aside when I saw a hose and knew there would be no fighting here. Also, pool gear would be better for an impromptu dance party that can be held regularly at The Under Presents. The work call would have to wait.
A woman who appeared to be ten feet tall caught our attention. She said we should all greet her new friend named “Rice Krispie Treat” and then she asked if we could have a group hug. When there was doubt that this wasn’t your standard video game character and instead a creation played by a very real life actor as a puppeteer, it should become obvious.
“We can’t hug out there right now,” she said, alluding to our current health crisis, “so we can do it here too.”
Starved for company, let alone the community provided by a friendly hug, I stretched out my arms and leaned forward. My left hand hit the coffee machine in my kitchen.
In a world of balancing life, finance and the arts with measures to slow the spread of a malicious virus, “The Under Presents” today feels more like a statement. It shows a possible way forward, a future in which the worlds of home technology and theater grow together in order not only to gain new experiences, but also to develop new business models.
Tender Claws seizes the moment.
The stable with 18 live actors … was extended full-time until the end of May and part-time at least until July. … Ultimately, “The Under Presents” works because it redefines theater for play. While it is not a substitute for live performance, it is another avenue for performance. It is a media-specific work specially developed for the home and offers an answer to a question that undoubtedly bothers many right now: what options are there for performing live? when we can’t gather in the same room? … CONTINUE READING
Without virtual reality games, I wouldn’t get any movement now
BY TODD MARTENS
The VR exercise game “Supernatural” is intended to enable users to do full-body training in virtual reality.
Like a New Year’s resolution that was never to be kept, I woke up on March 13 with big plans: every morning I would exercise for at least 30 minutes while I stayed at home. Then I decided to start this on March 14th. It was soon the first week of April. It turns out I’m pretty good at making excuses, all under the guise of “self-care”. …
I had to find a way to move. And right now I probably wouldn’t get any exercise without virtual reality.
Moving around within the headset has resulted in my most intense workout in months, so I’m planning on canceling my gym membership on the other end. While I’m far from being the first to discover that virtual reality is a great place to work out, I’m a little frustrated that it took me so long to realize it. … CONTINUE READING
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