Welcome to immersive living, a new type of “reality.” Explore an expanding array of immersive technologies — hardware, software, spatial sensors, cameras, interfaces, controllers, and head-mounted displays — that read and interpret the real world, combine it with the virtual and blur the boundaries in between.
How would you describe this class to prospective students?
It’s an opportunity to mix what’s real with what isn’t. We use emerging, immersive technologies to prototype and explore new interactions for Extended Reality (XR) — including Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), and Virtual Reality (VR) — and everything in between. We build, test and experiment and have fun doing it.
Why is learning about VR important for designers and artists?
The tools (software and hardware) mix digital and physical space, bodies and objects so you have an opportunity to think across multiple mediums and design for them simultaneously. And this ability to overlap changes how you work as an artist and designer, providing challenging new learning opportunities. Illustrators, interaction designers, entertainment designers, graphic designers, product designers and environmental designers must work together to create one cohesive immersive experience.
Immersive technology is still in its embryonic stage, which means that we as designers are not constrained to a certain type of ‘design standard.’ This class is designed in such a way that instigates a wide variety of interests, which has inspired me in my own design practice.Nan TsaiGraduate Media Design Practices Student
What inspired the direction you took with the curriculum for this class?
VR and AR are incredibly experiential, and the field has undergone a recent shift with the release of consumer-grade equipment. While there are some interaction patterns and best practices, there’s still so much to explore in terms of defining where the medium fits within our lives. Rather than replicating existing applications, The Immersion Lab is an open, collaborative environment where we can learn together and share what we discovered.
What tools and gear are used in this class?
HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, HoloLens, Leap Motion, Google Cardboard, Spatial Audio Recording... The diversity of equipment and resources enables students to have a holistic view of this large-scale XR system and work with various platforms to develop a critical understanding of each product’s challenges, opportunities and unique affordances. Over time, we see students mixing and matching parts, developing new systems of interaction beyond the existing product silos.
What are some of the assignments and materials you’ve incorporated into the curriculum that you hope will encourage and provoke students to challenge themselves and break new ground creatively?
Extended Reality is an intimidating medium. With many new platforms and software options, it’s a challenge to know where to start. We developed an experiential programming structure — including scanning/tracking, embodying, interacting and testing — to unpack the technological stack and quickly immerse students into the XR equipment, software, process and skills needed to prototype, design and evaluate an experience within just a few weeks.
What were some of the most interesting ways the students responded to the challenges and assignments?
We are always impressed with what students develop; their projects are incredibly creative and inventive, pushing the field into new applications and unexpected territories. For instance, Graduate Media Design Practices students Nan Tsai and Nicci Yin received an invitation to the Microsoft Design Expo to present their ArtCenter project, Pivot Points, which explores a person’s experience as they transition between physical (or "real") reality and virtual reality.