AbTeC/Obx Labs is the proud owner of an HTC VIVE Virtual Reality system! We are currently diving in and researching what type of original environments can be created and experienced within this innovative, new technology. AbTeC co-director Jason Edward Lewis, whose practice incorporates poetry and writing, has put together a small research group of six undergraduate students to imagine text in an immersive environment and produce a few experimental prototypes. Lab Coordinator Lianne Maritzer has been working closely with our lead programmer Julian Glass-Pilon to implement her conceptual ideas for texts in virtual reality and test the VIVE’s limits. Lianne’s piece will be an immersive experience in a world constructed by a poem.
When players enter the game, they are standing in an all black room. The only items visible are the two VIVE controllers which are each holding a white paintball. Players can throw these paintballs to illuminate the world by holding the trigger, moving their arm in a throwing motion, and releasing the trigger to release the paintball. When the paintball hits an object or text, it splatters and the splatter reveals the object’s colour. For example, if the paint splatters on a tree trunk, the player now see brown; if it splatters on the leaves, she sees green. If it hits multiple objects, each object touching the splatter will illuminate. If it hits text, the words start to become revealed. As players walk through the environment, short segments of the poem appear, which not only combine to make up a full poem but describe the changing environment around them.
At the moment, the game is just a prototype. There are only two segments of the poem (highlighted below) included and the game is static, meaning that the player cannot move beyond the box space. When the players throw the paintball, it colors the entire object rather than a paint splatter. This was the simplest way to get the player to understand what they are doing right away and how the paintballs work.
Poem: Walk through the Forest
A bird’s flight
The air so fresh and sweet
Tree after tree you’re passing
Stones crunch beneath your feet
Bushes wherever you go
Above you the leaves rustle sublime
Your gaze is jumping to and fro
Longing to see ev’rything at the same time
In the trees the bird’s song sounds
What a melody so nice!
The lynx stalks its prey in silence
The shy deer is watching you
Squirrels chatter, jumping around
on paths impossible to get through
in the trees, not on the ground
Needles cover the forest’s floor
Out oft he green maze with its magic smell
step back through the door
to where the humans dwell
This piece was inspired by coloring books and digital paint-by-numbers sets as well as the famous Tilt Brush VR game by Google and the video game The Unfinished Swan.
AbTeC is excited to continue this line of text-based, VR research and exploring new dimensions of artistic possibility.