Monday, April 15, 2013

Dreamlab: VR research at Parsons.

Next year, me and Kyle are starting a (very small) virtual reality ("VR") research lab at Parsons. We've set our initial long-term research initiative as some sort of "virtual sculpting studio" -- so maybe one day you'll put on your Oculus Rift and power gloves, sculpt some virtual clay, and then send the model to a 3D printer? Wouldn't that be cool? We have lots of other ideas too, but those will require a lot more money / space / time, so this is us, thinking "small."

If you think it sounds awesome, please "like us" (ugh) on this weird startup grant social media platform thing so some giant well-funded entity can give us money. Or, if you happen to be a corporate or nonprofit entity that has money you'd like to part with, please get in touch.

The full proposal text is here:

We envision virtual reality as a “place” that allows us to do useful work and experience unique phenomena. Much like going to a woodshop to work wood, or a kitchen to work food, we imagine dedicated VR spaces for people to work and play with data in intuitive ways. How can we use the unique affordances of virtual realities to visualize, embody, and interface with virtual data most effectively?

Our initial research direction involves pairing LeapMotion hand-tracking with Oculus Rift VR headsets to create a virtual sculpting workbench that outputs to 3D printers. Recent advances in immersion technology provide novel affordances that a flat 2D display or mouse / keyboard interface does not. Specifically, it could provide all the benefits of an intuitive interface metaphor rooted in physicality (pinching clay with fingers?) yet remain completely free of pesky real-world material constraints (digital clay can defy gravity?) while taking advantage of digital workflows (touch to create a ball? copy and paste a folded crease?).

We believe this direction will make 3D modeling / 3D printing more accessible for everyone. The promise of this interface and its possible applications could radically empower learning design, film production, video game development, web technologies, or digital fabrication and prototyping -- thus strengthening creative economies around the world.

Future research initiatives would focus on pairing wireless VR with seamless body-to-finger motion tracking system to create immersive “holodeck” environments: a “virtual maker space” where we could imbue a physical space with our imaginations... a dreamlab.

(NOTE: We're kinda immersion-effect-skeptics, but I think it's a useful lie.)