Virtual reality is cool and has been around for more than 30 years. However, only recently it then gradually found its way into the commercial world and become more commonly known. Although VR can provide very immersive experiences to people, it still has many limitations. One of which is the gap between the HMD wearer and other audiences, this immersive technology cut off the social connections and awareness between the virtual world and the physical world. As an artist and designer, I argue that a good VR experience should not only just focused on the HMD wearer but also focused on other audiences. Hence, I want to make an interactive art project with a redesigned HMD to help to solve this problem by combining other emerging technologies with VR. My thesis is aiming to explore how to improve shared awareness in virtual reality experiences.
My independent study in the summer is a series of experiments to explore whether the technology is capable of helping to solve the research questions, so based on that I can initialize a fundamental framework and add more creative contents later on. These experiments including minimizing wearable circuits, working with e-textiles and fabrics, 3D printing, laser cutting and developing IoT AR app.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
The definition of Mixed Reality can be traced back to 1994 to a research paper written by Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino. As shown in Figure 1, the reality-virtuality continuum encompasses all possible variations and compositions of real and virtual objects. Many of the virtual reality headsets rely on smartphones to display the content. While these devices are an excellent introduction to VR and also provide a budget-friendly solution for my thesis, but they lack the visual quality to deliver an immersive experience. In Mark Billinghurst’s blog, he mentioned there are seven types of HMDs as following:
- Monitor based (non-immersive) video displays. Showing video of the real world onto which digital images are superimposed
- A HMD showing video. The same as type 1, but the content is in a HMD
- Optical see-through HMD. A see-through display that allows virtual images to appear superimposed over the real world
- Video see-through HMD. The same as 3, but showing video of the real world in front of the user with virtual graphics superimposed on it.
- Monitor based AV system. Showing 3D graphics on a monitor with superimposed video.
- Immersive or partially immersive AV. Showing 3D graphics in an immersive display with video superimposed on it.
- Partially immersive AV systems. AV systems which allow additional real-object interactions, such as interacting with one’s own (real) hand.
AR is about augmenting the human experience and it will not advance in isolation. The real impact AR will have is when it becomes a super medium that combines other parallel emerging technologies like wearable computing, sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and artificial intelligence. — Helen Papagiannis
Working with e-textiles and fabrics
E-textiles can more easily adapt to fast changes in the computational and sensing requirements of any specific application, this one representing a useful feature for power management and context awareness (Stoppa & Alessandro, 2014)
Smart Textiles will serve as a means of increasing social welfare and they might lead to important savings on welfare budget. They integrate a high level of intelligence and can be divided into three subgroups (Stoppa& Alessandro, 2014) :
- Passive smart textiles: only able to sense the environment/user, based on sensors;
- Active smart textiles: reactive sensing to stimuli from the environment, integrating an actuator function and a sensing device;
- Very smart textiles: able to sense, react and adapt their behavior to the given circumstances.
For this prototype, I only used a small piece of press sensitive fabric to incorporate with the headset, but I would like to try a large piece of smart textile to place at the intraorbital place of the headset so it can detect the movement or the bio-data of the wearer’s face and then contribute to the interactions of the whole experiences.
3D printing and laser cutting
The DDF (Digital Design Fabrication) method is a two-stage process of working that integrates generative computing and RP (Rapid Prototyping) into one process. Together they support a process to generate diverse candidate artifacts as solutions to design problems (Sass & Rivka, 2006).
I used the laser cutter to cut the felt marker for my headset, the problem I am facing is that the felt cloth continuously moved under tension through a cutting zone. After reading old papers by Mcken, Medley and John, I found that magnetic material may be a better solution. It can provide a template formed of a generally rigid magnetic material for placing over sheets of material to be cut with a base plate therebelow, in general alignment with the template. The base plate will provide a magnetic field for attracting the template toward the base plate to apply pressure to the sheets of material stacked therebetween (Macken & Jon, 1984). I haven’t tried out this method yet, but I used a wooden plate to place under the fabric and used a paper tape to align. My fabric does have some slightly burnt mark at random places after laser cutting and also the off-track results because of the high-speed setting(I set to 60) to make it moved around. It’s ok to cut on small surface and cheap material, but for my next iteration it would be good to completely align the materials to achieve a better result.
De Angeli, Daniela, and Eamonn J. O’Neill. “Development of an Inexpensive Augmented Reality (AR) Headset.” Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM, 2015.
Macken, John A. “Method and apparatus for laser engraving of smoke-sensitive materials.” U.S. Patent No. 4,458,133. 3 Jul. 1984.
Medley, John A. “Method of and apparatus for cutting cloth.” U.S. Patent No. 3,614,369. 19 Oct. 1971.
Sass, Larry, and Rivka Oxman. “Materializing design: the implications of rapid prototyping in digital design.” Design Studies 27.3 (2006): 325-355.
Stoppa, Matteo, and Alessandro Chiolerio. “Wearable electronics and smart textiles: a critical review.” Sensors 14.7 (2014): 11957-11992.