Articles

At the heart of Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality (VT) and its possibilities invaded the artistic scene more than 20 years ago. The first set-ups mimicked reality and/or simulated and replaced its functions: digitized decors to represent cities, forests, etc. according to the scenic needs. “The second phase was oneiric, fantastic: the devices enabled creation of a parallel universe. Today, we have moved into a phase of augmented virtual reality (AVR): artists interact with digital devices and these augment the effects, reinforce the sensations” says Indira Thouvenin, UTC research scientist and lecturer in charge of the course “Virtual Reality”. In a totally virtual environment, the décor is like a system that connects to the artists. In a mixed reality, robots assimilate artistic performances, as has been done by the choreographers Blanca Li and Marie-Claude Pietragalla in their most recent show (respectively entitled “Robot” and “M. et Mme Rêve” [Mr and Ms Dream] »).

At the heart of Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality (VT) and its possibilities invaded the artistic scene more than 20 years ago. The first set-ups mimicked reality and/or simulated and replaced its functions: digitized decors to represent cities, forests, etc. according to the scenic needs. “The second phase was oneiric, fantastic: the devices enabled creation of a parallel universe. Today, we have moved into a phase of augmented virtual reality (AVR): artists interact with digital devices and these augment the effects, reinforce the sensations” says Indira Thouvenin, UTC research scientist and lecturer in charge of the course “Virtual Reality”. In a totally virtual environment, the décor is like a system that connects to the artists. In a mixed reality, robots assimilate artistic performances, as has been done by the choreographers Blanca Li and Marie-Claude Pietragalla in their most recent show (respectively entitled “Robot” and “M. et Mme Rêve” [Mr and Ms Dream] »).

 

Art calls for a delicate touch

“Artistic production lends itself extremely well to experimentation in virtual reality; there are real challenges to capture movements. You need very fine definition, of the same order as pianist’s fingers of a piano keyboard. Art calls for a delicate touch, for fluidity and this is no easy task in virtual reality”, says Indira Thouvenin. In this light, the PhD thesis defended by Rémy Fresnoy, called “Descript” aims at creating a mixed reality device to aid in the art of calligraphy. “Movement analysis turned out to be extremely complex! Adds Indira Thouvenin. Among the most recent PhD theses Indira has overseen, the project IMS, acronym for “Immersive Music Painter” was defended by Camille Barot and Kevin Carpentier. This is an artistic creation that received a prize at the Laval Virtual exhibition in 2010; it is accessible to all and uses an infrared (IR) laser. In the dark, one only needs to move the laser to draw light rays and produce music simultaneously. Users can then be immersed in their musical/light creations.

 

 

‘Embodiment’ digital programmes

“Capturing movements using data processing devices allows you to have feedback, vibrations, sounds, 3D images …” underlines Indira Thouvenin. “These interfaces are increasingly connected to the human body and in a sense digital processes are becoming “embodied” or “embedded”. The next step (after movement capture) will focus on emotions. In the project managed by Loïc Fricoteaux, called OSE which is financially supported by the Picardie Region and the European Regional Fund, FEDER will lead to a system that will register stress and corporal inattention with users who are learning to pilot a virtual canal barge. “The more of a beginner the user is - an emotional state picked up by pulse recording, eye direction, tiller-rudder movements, etc. - the more the system will provide aid and advice about the right route to follow”, details Indira Thouvenin. She is interested in this family of systems that adapt to human beings and allow the latter to evolve in retroactively. “It is a concept called ‘enaction’ in English”, adds Indira. “Its applications concern notably projects for driverless vehicles of the future, and this will necessarily need some augmented virtual reality”.

 

 

UTC: benchmark notoriety

In another thesis supervised by Indira Thouvenin, called Light’n’Gadgets, we have a video game that take players into the world of lights. The player is invited to guide laser beams to certain targets, suing mirrors, lenses, filters, etc., to solve the puzzle. This game won a prize at the Laval Virtual Exhibition in 2011 and the IVRC prize (a Japanese competition for innovative projects). Another game that won a prize too at the Laval Virtual Exhibition called Daïdalos is a mix of virtual reality and augmented reality: the player is placed in a labyrinth that other players change as a function of the players movements. All these projects are proposed by students in the RV01 course mentioned above. Given that all these students are top-notch competitors, they regularly win prizes at a national level and also take place, successfully, in international VR venues. This is the case of “The Wonderland Builder: using story-telling to guide dream-like interaction” directly inspired by ‘Alice in Wonderland’. This is a joint project managed and directed by a mixed team of PhD students and undergraduates, the heroine of which is ‘Alice’ who can build her own wonderland and move round it. “This is a very successful project that won the 2nd Prize at the 3DUI Contest, in the framework of the IEEE VR2013 international scientific conference, a major event in VR”, underscores Indira Thouvenin. “This is the first time a French team has won a prize at this conference event”. UTC’s expertise and know-how are recognized at both academic and industrial levels. “Students trained in this field are highly attractive for companies inasmuch as they fully master the technologies and demonstrate their talents in creativity: they have dared to present really novel ideas, relying on very solid scientific base-lines”.