Participating in a parallel exhibit to the 16th International Venice Biennale is an honor. How were you and members of your team selected to participate in the “Data & Matter” Exhibition?
I was invited on behalf of MMXIII, a research collaborative I lead, to participate in the exhibition in January 2018. The invitation came from the three curators: Marcella Del Signore, associate professor at the New York Institute of Technology; Nancy Diniz, assistant professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and Frank Melendez, assistant professor at City College of New York. Their call prompted a reinterpretation of how computational technologies inform new relationships between information and matter. Given my ongoing research on augmented reality done in collaboration with Ming Tang, associate professor in DAAP’s School of Architecture and Interior Design (SAID), and my approach to teaching as applied research, I invited Adam Schueler, SAID 2017 graduate, and Professor Tang as collaborators.
Explain how your exhibit “Optical Illusions of Volume: Bubbles” examines conflicting attitudes.
The project reconciles conflicting attitudes between traditional CAD/CAM strategies, augmented reality and analog post-processing techniques. Given the ubiquitous proliferation of digital techniques, “Optical Illusions of Volume” proposes an interpretation of these processes as simple tools and prompts an exploration of the many misalignments inherent in the design and manufacturing process. Through computation and augmented reality, a physical artifact is brought to life in Venice at Palazzo Bembo.
In a 1995 essay, “The Vision of Virtual Reality,” Frank Biocca, Taeyong Kim and Mark Levy argued that the “essential copy” and “physical transcendence” were important drivers in the generation of mixed reality. They described the search for the “essential copy” as seeking a “means to fool the senses,” while “physical transcendence” is rooted in an “ancient desire for escape from the confines of the physical world.” This theoretical foundation, with the latest mixed reality technology, has inspired us to speculate on the relation between the separator and the physical space. Free from the “essential copy” mindset, various virtual iterations are experienced in an augmented reality world, where the physical and the digital can coexist. Using the Microsoft HoloLens spectator system and its semi-transparent “optical see-through” screen and Unity, the animation is controlled by the user’s gestures, through C# scripts.
For the exhibition in Venice, we have also incorporated augmented reality through the use of a mobile device. Visitors can visualize, interact, change textures, modify placement in space and walk through a virtual representation of our physical installation exhibited at the University of Cincinnati. While in reality certain decisions are frozen and limited to the selected material, spatial or budgetary constraints, in an augmented reality environment these considerations can be left open-ended, remaining in progress.