A New Way to Interact with Your Surroundings

The Decelerator Helmet

Lorenz Potthast, 2014


In the inside of the helmet the video-signal of a camera and the input of a microphone are processed by a small computer. The slowed down images are displayed right before the user’s eyes via a Head-Mounted Display and simultaneously shown at a monitor on the outside.  In three different modes the lapse of time can be influenced through a remote control: In the auto-mode time is slowed down automatically and re-accelerated after a defined interval. The press-mode allows the specific deceleration of time and in the scroll-mode the user can completely control the speed of the elapsing of time.



Daniel Steegmann Magrané, 2015

Phantom consists of a virtual reality environment accessed through a pair of Oculus Rift goggles.  This project was a collaboration with ScanLAB in London, who helped Steegmann to scan a piece of the Brazilian Mata Atlántica rainforest, one of the fastest disappearing environments of the world. Using Oculus technology, a system of Optitrack tracking cameras, and the application written by ScanLab, one can move through this environment to discover how one’s body interacts with the forest.

Why not test the ability of the image to foster a union between ourselves and the world by creating the most supremely realistic copy of a place, one that can be inhabited and not just viewed? Why not return to the terminus of the steel cable spanning the jungle, where the 16mm camera ceased to record, and transform every living and inanimate and visible thing into infinitesimal polygons and fluid motion effects? Why not cross the abyss, finally, between ideas and things?”

-Daniel Steegmann Magrané

Steegmann attempts this by scanning a fifteen hundred square foot plot of jungle into an interactive space which the viewer can transport to through a gallery setting. Phantom transforms the viewer into a transient being in the forest–allowing us to interact with a part of the world we normally do not see, but effects our lives without us being aware of it.



Generating Interaction

The Tunnel Under the Atlantic

Maurice Benayoun, 1995


Benayoun’s work The Tunnel Under the Atlantic connected the Pompidou Center to the Contemporary Art Museum of Montreal on the other by the means of a two meter diameter tube which seemingly connected the two.  He created a virtual tunnel which connected both sides, which viewers can “dig” through.  In this reality, the geology underneath the Atlantic is not all rock:  viewers dig to find images and cultural references.  The viewers can dig at their own pace, but this means that the faster they dig, the more ground they cover, but the fewer images they uncover, allowing the viewers to create their own narrative.

Bar Code Hotel

Perry Hoberman (1994)

Guests who “check in” to the Bar Code Hotel are given a set of 3D glasses and a barcode scanning wand which allows them to interact with the interface presented to them.The public simultaneously influences and interacts with computer-generated objects in an oversized three-dimensional projection, scanning and transmitting printed bar code information instantaneously into the computer system. The objects, each corresponding to a different user, exist as agents that are only partially under the control of their human collaborators.  Because the interface is the room, they can interact with each other as well.  As the guests scan the barcodes, different objects and patterns appear in the room which the guests can interact with.  The narrative of the piece is completely left up to the users.

Maurice Benayoun : The Big Questions

In November of 1994, Maurice Benayoun presented two VR pieces at the Artifices 3 biennial in Saint-Denis.

Is God Flat? 

Maurice Benayoun (1994)


Moving through an environment enclosed by brick walls, the viewer goes on a virtual quest to seek out visual representations of Gods drawn from the history of art of different cultures.  As the viewer changes direction, he defines a new corridor, building up the virtual architecture as he goes.  According to how the viewer moves towards the rendition, it moves towards him, grows larger, or moves away. If the viewer moves too close, only the visual aspect of the God remains (the pixels).  However, the process of moving through and creating new corridors to view the Gods is part of an excavation of icons, hidden in the framework of the program.  By the viewer pursuing the image of God (or all of the different variations of God) he updates the collective knowledge of humanities’ variations of their creator, as well as building up a personal cumulative knowledge which comes from collecting the variations of God.

Is The Devil Curved? 

Maurice Benayoun (1994)



With a similar architecture to Is God Flat, in Is the Devil Curved the viewer digs corridors through clouds in the sky, which are cut in real time as he moves.  As the viewer moves through the clouds, he begins to discover different shapes.  These shapes are round, organic, and paired with sensual sounds.  They react to the movement of the viewer, shifting to his touch, to his desire, almost in the manner of a devilish seduction.

“This is a diverted use of what we call ” artificial life “, which talks about life (the purpose of art) beyond a basic demonstration, by placing shapes in space. The visitor of this virtual world truly exists within this world, changing at his contact. The meaning itself is in this relation. The interactive realism lies in the transposition of laws, which rules the world in laws, which rules the meaning.”

-Maurice Benayoun

And What About Me? (pt 1 and 2)

Maurice Benayoun (1994)


Contrary to the virtual interactivity in his first two projects, Benayoun created the response as a flat, interactive internet activity.  The viewer sees a java-built map of the world with stones and grains of sand.  He can drop the stones anywhere he pleases on the map, creating a rippling reaction of various sizes.  Benayoun answered his own question with the idea that we too are like these stones or grains of sand:  we drop in with force and create an effect around us, however eventually everything will still fall back as it should be.

Before Oculus Rift

Ivan Sutherland – The Sword of Damocles (1966)

The Sword of Damascus was the first VR headset created in 1968 by MIT computer scientist Ivan Sutherland.  It included a clipping divider, matrix multiplier, vector generator, headset, head position sensor, and a general-purpose computer, which are the components known to VR headsets today. It displayed simple wireframe model rooms.

Aspen Movie Map (1979)


About thirty years before Google Maps appeared, a group of MIT students made an interactive map of the city of Aspen, Colorado. The project was funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as a way to familiarize military trainees with new locations, however many saw it as a way to increase global interactivity.

David Em – Aku (1977-1978)

In 1977, David Em became the first artist to create a navigable virtual world in his work Aku. Em was a resident artist at NASA when he made this work.

Jeffrey Shaw – The Golden Calf (1994)


This work is an augmented reality application which shows a golden calf on an empty pedestal in a gallery.  The calf has a reflective surface which reflects the actual gallery space–really making it seem like it exists.

Luc Courchesne – Paysage no. 1 (1997)



Luc Courchesne’s work Landscape no. 1 is an interactive video panorama projection which multiple users can experience at once.  It includes four computers with touch plates, microphones and body detectors, four videodisc players, video projectors, and screens on which video images of Mount-Royal Park in Montréal are projected.  The projections are of the park over a period of 24 hours, and include actors with whom the viewers can interact with.  Although the actors can move throughout the park, the viewers cannot without first interacting with one of the actors, who then guide them through the park.  The experience is dictated by the viewer’s decisions about social interaction, as one can only fully experience it by engagement.

Char Davies- Osmose (1995)

Osmose is a virtual space created to facilitate one’s own self-awareness. Viewers move through virtual space by monitoring their breath, similar to scuba diving. There are a dozen world-spaces in Osmose, most based on metaphorical aspects of nature, including Clearing, Forest, Tree, Leaf, Cloud, Pond, Subterranean Earth, and Abyss. There is also a substratum, Code, which contains much of the actual software used to create the work, and a superstratum, Text, a space consisting of quotes from the artist and excerpts of relevant texts on technology, the body and nature.

“By changing space, by leaving the space of one’s usual sensibilities, one enters into communication with a space that is psychically innovating. … For we do not change place, we change our nature.”

Gaston Bachelard
The Poetics of Space, 1964

Changing Relationships with Virtual Reality


This project is currently still trying to get funding, but if it succeeds artist Mark Farid will wear an Oculus Rift for 28 days while inside of a room.  He will see through the eyes of another person who he doesn’t know through their specially made glasses which connect to the Oculus.  The goal is to discover whether Mark will begin to lose his sense of self, replaced by the life of the person wearing glasses.

Swapping bodies with Oculus

This Oculus experiment, The Machine to be Another, is an ongoing Open Source Art investigation into the relationship between Identity and Empathy.  Two participants use the Oculus to see what life is like from the other’s eyes, using it as a tool to promote empathy between individuals of different social, cultural, and ideological backgrounds.

Transforming Paintings into 3D space

Currently a work in progress, De Profundis is a project which brings the works of Zdzisław Beksiński to life in VR, transforming 2D paintings and static sculptures into an interactive world the viewer can experience virtually. They have already created virtual art galleries which can be seen with Oculus Rift, but once the VR becomes convincing enough how will that change our relationship with art? will programs be written to allow us to experience art totally differently?

3D Drawing

Google recently purchase a program called Tilt Brush, which allows you to draw in three dimensions.  Right now it’s for Google Cardboard, making it more accessible to the common person.

Elon Musk on VR


“It’s quite transformative… You really feel like you’re there, and then when you come out of it, it feels like reality isn’t real.”

(As video games get more lifelike and incorporate technologies such as haptic suits) “it becomes, beyond a certain resolution, indistinguishable from reality.”

“There are likely to be millions, maybe billions of such simulations. So, then, what are the odds that we’re actually in base reality? Isn’t it one in billions?”

-Elon Musk at the 2014 New Establishment Summit

Will Virtual Reality Porn Change the Future of Sex?

The Robot That Makes Virtual Sex Feel Real

Virtual Reality Sex is Coming–and the Toys are Already Here

I’m sure the idea of creating virtual reality porn didn’t come too long after creating a device which lets you see a virtual reality.  VR sex could be big–so big that it may change the way we view sex in the future.  Now the development of this idea is only in its infancy, but in the future how realistic could it be? Could it get to the point where it looks and feels so realistic, that users begin to believe it’s real? How would that effect romantic relationships, marriages, the desire to have children? Would it effect the overall interactions between males and females if both sexes could have fully satisfying virtual intercourse?  Both technologies written in the above articles are different takes on the same idea–one is prerecorded porn filmed to be compatible with Oculus Rift and complete with corresponding toys, the other is an interactive simulation with a generated partner who responds to your movements.  But will either of these technologies ever get to the point where it replaces the physical and emotional feeling of human touch?  Could the technology generate emotional relationships with virtual partners that replace the desire for a real one, to the point where most real relationships become platonic?