It was my nephews birthday when I was taken to what can only be described as a glorious, neon-coloured arcade version of Las Vegas for kids. This gaming centre wasn’t just your regular laser tag and pinball destination. This place bled your wallet dry and blistered your thumbs as you surfed your way through hours of Konami fun. It was where I came head-to-head with my first virtual reality experience.
Back in the 90s, a company called Virtuality Group sought to introduce players to a unique virtual gaming experience by using huge gaming cabinets that you could walk straight into, entering a virtual world (with oversized goggles on, of course). This was during a time when games looked badly pixelated, just like like Minecraft’s current aesthetic but unintentional. Regardless, they could still scare the crap out of you. In 1995 Nintendo even had a go with it’s own 3D black and red headset called the Virtual Boy. Although a few decent games were produced, they left the players feeling a little queasy, which led to its untimely end the following year.
Two decades later, VR rearing it’s goggled head once again thanks to the Oculus Rift. With its successful kickstarter campaign and various YouTube games, the device has been adapted to use with huge current video games and lesser known indie games. Sony cracked on with their own virtual reality tech called Project Morpheus, which allows users a more affordable VR experience in the comfort of their own homes. And if that wasn’t enough, Google has even created their own smartphone-adaptable Cardboard goggles for the gal on the go.
With the use of virtual reality equipment becoming so accessible, it has given way to the creation of an entirely new platform for artists to express themselves: the three-dimensional level. It’s almost mandatory to have your art produced as an optional 360 immersive experience these days. I like to call this the „Madonna Syndrome“ – the reinvention of your brand to appeal to the masses.
In 2015, YouTube announced its first interactive 360-degree music video for Noa Neal’s ‘Graffiti’ – a collaboration between Intel and Kolor, and a huge load of GoPro’s. Now, the list is endless with the likes of Avicii, Foals, Jack White, Dawn Richard, Muse and of course, the queen of obscurity herself, Björk, experimenting with this medium.
But if you look back to 2013, the VR revolution is already in motion. Ian Cheng unveiled the VR piece „Entropy Wrangler Cloud“ at an art fair. Though the work might not have made headline news, the piece was still an early demonstration of how technology could enhance a person’s experience with art.
Another edition of immersive art piece what Gretchen Andrew’s VR takeover of an LA gallery just last year, where the observer could dive into a painting and watch Gretchen sketching the piece.
With the introduction of Google’s Tilt Brush this year, three-dimensional artwork can literally be drawn into thin air. The possibilities seem to be endless (plus it looks pretty cool if you’re into a bit of sci-fi).
Virtual reality has been existed for so many different forms for nearly 30 years. With more accessible and affordable tech, how long will it be until we give up our old paintbrushes and training methods and instead teach our finest professionals via a headset and a couple of joysticks?
Well, more research needs to be done in healthcare practices anyway.
More explanations of the Virtual Reality world:
Header image: Marcel Schlutt – KALTBLUT