Friday 22nd January 2016Genre Spotlight: Virtual Reality
As you've probably already noticed this year, we've been very excited lately by the prospect of consumer-ready virtual reality and how it will affect the art world, both in terms of the artists and the viewers. Rather than focusing on any particular artist today, we're going to be exploring the possibilities and limitations of the medium itself, and where it might be going in the future.
For those of you unaware of the latest developments, a number of companies including Google, Facebook, HTC, Valve, Microsoft and Samsung are all heavily investing in virtual reality technology, whether in the form of buying startups such as Oculus (as Facebook did) or by developing their own in-house technologies. This has lead to a huge range of projects that are about to be available for the general consumer - or in the case of Oculus, were already available in time for the holiday season in 2015. Essentially, a virtual reality (VR) rig is comprised of a headset with screens placed right before the eyes, built-in headphones and accelerometers to measure how your head moves in 3D space.
This allows for an unprecedented level of immersion in a completely constructed world, where the possibilities for artistic creation are limited by nothing more than the artist's imagination (and, for the moment, the lack of a sense of smell or touch, but these two are not always common elements in artistic projects). While the technology is still fairly expensive, the prices will be dropping rapidly as the various competitors roll out their entries, and many companies are already working with content creators such as artists and video game designers to ensure there is enough VR content to meet the demand.
Another interesting take on the VR environment is something called augmented reality (AR), where the viewer isn't completely immersed an alternative environment but rather gets a blend of virtual and real world views. This may turn out to have the largest artistic potential, as the entire structure of narratives and viewpoints can literally be questioned, instead of merely intimated. Four people all looking at the same real world object could be given completely different yet related and constantly shifting viewpoints shaped by the augmented content their AR equipment shows them. Combine this with some kind of shared online space and the possibilities start to grow exponentially - and that's just one example.
Virtual and augmented reality promises to be one of the most exciting artistic developments of 2016 and onwards, and as the technology scales upwards and the cost scales down, we're going to be looking at a brave new and completely constructed world. We can hardly wait!
Posted on January 22nd 2016 on 12:34am
Wednesday 07th October 2015Virtual Reality Art
Ever since the early 1980s when virtual reality technology was initially developed, people have been waiting for it to revolutionize the world, whether it's in the world of computers, art installations, films, or more esoteric applications like data visualizations. Time and again, users have been generally disappointed by the various virtual reality offerings, however, as the technology itself has been unable to keep up with the demands of the users. This may be all about to change with the upcoming commercial release of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.
The Oculus Rift headset is actually one of the most successful results of the recent crowdfunding phenomenon that has completely shaken up the world of product startups, originally being put forward as a project on the website Kickstarter. It's not quite ready for consumer purchase yet, but the manufacturers are hoping for a release in the first quarter of 2016, with preorders beginning towards the end of this year. Luckily for all of us consumers, developer versions of the headset have been available for quite some time now, which means that interested parties have been able to get a hold of a prerelease version of the equipment in order to begin creating content for all the rest of us, and this includes an impressive number of artists who have been salivating at the chance to start exploring what the technology can do.
We have already discussed the relative merits of the idea of video games as art, but the Oculus Rift completely changes this entire dialog and dumps it on its head. Suddenly the idea of just what a video game really is begins to change, as the (virtual) realities of interactive films force us to re-evaluate our preconceptions.
One artist who is exploring these exciting new virtual realities is Canadian artist Jon Rafman, who has had a recent exhibit at the Zabludowicz Collection in London. The overall exhibit hasn't met with resounding success, but by far the most popular element of the show is his exploration of the Oculus VR headset. The piece is entitled Sculpture Garden (Hedge Maze), and takes the viewers through a bizarre surreal world populated by eerie moments and unexpected fears. We're going to take a closer look at his work in the future with one of our upcoming Artist Spotlight pieces, so be sure to keep an eye out for that. You can also be sure that he won't be the only one working with the Oculus Rift, so expect to start finding more and more of the sleek black headsets in galleries around the world.
Posted on October 07th 2015 on 06:32pm