IASLonline NetArt: Theory
History of Computer Art
V. Reactive Installations and Virtual Reality
V.2 Seamless Total Simulation versus Interface Architecture
V.2 Seamless Total Simulation versus Interface Architecture
The goal of presentations with head mounted displays
and data gloves was to design the interface to virtual reality as seamless
as possible. As it is usual in their daily life´s body coordination,
observers move their bodies in a gravitational world meanwhile they orientate
themselves visually in a gravitationless simulation. 1
Observers should be able to move in simulated worlds as if they were real,
nevertheless they should be able in the virtual reality to coordinate
operations transgressing the body actions under gravitational conditions.
Fleischmann, Monika/Strauss, Wolfgang: Home of the
Brain, virtual reality installation, 1991/92 (Kluszczynski: Data 2011,
installations like "Home of the
Brain" (1991/92) by Monika Fleischmann and Wolfgang Strauss 2,
(1993) by Brenda Laurel and Rachel Strickland 3 and "Osmose"
(1995) by Char Davies 4 observers can enter and explore
the spaces of images with motions of feets, hands and eyes in using virtual
reality (VR) interfaces for heads and hands. The installations for data
helmets and data gloves need a limited real space enabling observers to
act obstacle-free in exploring the simulated worlds. In "Placeholder"
the spaces for the actions of two observers with data helmets and data
gloves are enframed by stones. By tactile means observers gain knowledge
of the limited gravitation-bound area for their actions in a gravitationless
virtual world binding the capabilities for visual perception. 5
Laurel, Brenda/Strickland, Rachel: Placeholder, virtual
reality installation, 1993.
On the opposite to these "inclusive
environments" with `seamless entrances´ to simulations the
"responsive environments" by Krueger, Shaw or Weibel (see chap.
V.1) offer observers thechnical interfaces as `seams´ between the
gravitation-bound real space and the simulated worlds. 6
The `seam´ as a technical (interface 1) and cognitive interface
(interface 2, see chap. VIII.2) can be a subject of the observation models
realised by artists and programmers as "responsive environments".
Davies, Char: Osmose, virtual reality installation,
From 1991 to 1993 Daniel J. Sandin,
Thomas A. DeFanti and Carolina Cruz-Neira developed "CAVE"
(Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory
(University of Illinois, Chicago). In the 3 x 3 meter large room of this
technical platform computer animations can be presented by video beamers
as rear projections on three up to six walls. The animations can be abstract
model worlds as well as a panorama-like simulation of a world or a state
of a world (for example reconstructions of a destroyed monument´s
original state). Observers wear stereo glasses (LCD shutter glasses) with
sensors (between both glasses) recording their location and the head´s
motions. Perspective distortions in oblique views on the projection walls
Therefore, as the viewer moves around in the environment, the off-axis stereo projection is calculated according to his/her position with respect to the walls. 8
Sandin, Daniel J./DeFanti, Thomas A./Cruz-Neira, Carolina:
CAVE, reactive installation, Electronic Visualization Laboratory (University
of Illinois, Chicago), 1991-93.
The installations of different works programmed for the "CAVE"
can require the mounting of other interface equipments for the observers´
navigations. In "ConFIGURING
the CAVE" (1996) by Jeffrey Shaw, Agnes Hegedüs and John
Lintermann observers are enabled to navigate in seven visual worlds by
moving a puppet´s limbs. 9 Observers switch from
one visual world to another by moving the hands of the puppet to its eyes.
Shaw, Jeffrey/Hegedüs, Agnes/Lintermann, John:
Con FIGURING the CAVE, reactive installation in the CAVE, 1996.
The visitors are on the one hand
`external observers´ exploring the programming of the virtual world
and reconstructing its `internal observer´. 10
On the other hand the observers are already included in an environment
trying to immerse `seamlessly´ into its simulated world. But the
real space used as a facility for simulations has a limited size (10'
x 10' x 9'/3,05 x 3,05 x 2,74 meter) and a projected simulation remains
an inaccessible world of optical illusions. In the little cube the observers´
area for body motions is limited, and in the navigation through the projected
space its illusion of depth has to be remembered for the body coordination
as being part of an inaccessible `mirror world´ behind the projection
Dave Pape´s "Crayoland"
(1995) 11 provokes observers to turn around if they
want to follow the landscape panorama being drawn with crayons and then
scanned. The margins of the virtual space (200´ x 200´/60,56
x 60,56 meter) and the limits of the real space are coordinated with each
other. In contrary to the "Crayoland" is in "ConFIGURING
the CAVE" the depth of illusion constituting the space of the images
blocked by repeated patterns of sign configurations or abstract forms:
The forward driving navigation in the virtual space is replaced by an
observer behavior coordinating the puppet´s limbs to explore the
possible modifications of the animation´s four sides: The seeker
of the depth effect (immersion) is replaced by a sliding observer.
Pape, Dave: Crayoland, reaktive Installation im CAVE, 1995.
Parallel to the navigation within the virtual world the observers use
their memory for self-orientations in a narrow real space prohibiting
them to walk more than some steps in one direction. But with operations
on the technical interface observers can move in virtual reality as if
they walk in a much wider space than in the real space of the "CAVE":
Observers `walk´ in simulated worlds often meanwhile they stand
still in the real space. If observers turn around to see the simulated
space on walls, floor or ceiling then they act out a `standturn´
(they turn the body without walking) to move in the virtual world in circles:
They move with their eyes in the virtual world in another radius than
their body in the real space. A `seam´ between the real space and
the projection is the precondition for a `seamless´ navigation in
the virtual world(s).
No training is necessary for the coordination of
motions with the tracker and one´s own body to navigate with the
technical interface of the "CAVE" in virtual worlds. For observers
this interface can seem to be an easy and intuitively usable entrance
to the virtual world, but it is not `seemless´ like the navigation
in virtual reality installations with data helmets and data gloves: The
technical interface (interface 1) and the cognitive interface of the observer
for his coordination of body motions (interface 2) have to be approximated
to each other for cognitive intermediations (interface 3, see chap.VII.2.2,
VII.2) between the real and virtual spaces with their different constituents.
These intermediations for the development of adequate observing operations
(action plans and schemes) can result in requirements to further exploratory
actions with the feet, the head and the tracker. These characteristics
allow to describe the "CAVE" as a navigable panorama with moving
images (steuerbares Bewegtbild-Panorama). 12
Maurice Benayoun´s "CAVE" installation "World
Skin" (1997-2003) shifts the observer in the position of war
zones´ tourists. Observers can´t see the spatial depth of
the war zones because it is blocked by the simulation of soldiers, tanks
and ruins. The technical interface included a navigation interface for
one observer and for further observers three little devices hanging from
the ceiling. These hanging devices are prepared for a camera-like use.
Observers click with a camera imitation on one of the war motifs projected
on three walls. Then the photographed `frozen´ moments of war scenes
turn into white planes with the outlines of the motif `clicked away´.
After observers activated the sound of the camera clicks several times
the background noises of war activities are replaced by the sound of rifle
Benayoun, Maurice: World Skin, reactive installation
in the CAVE, 1997-2003.
Benayoun creates the paradox of unmoved scenes of
a warzone `vivified´ by 3D animation. With it the artist developed
a narrative as well as a conceptual context being especially appropriate
for the technical platform CAVE. To expectations concerning an immersion
provoked by the allround simulation of the CAVE responds Benayoun in thematising
the expectations of warzone tourists to experience the horrors of the
past as illustrative as possible but not too `close´. The cardboard-like
presentation of war scenes prohibits heroisation and thematises expectations
to simulations of historical constellations (location and events). 13
Meanwhile in installations with data helmets and data gloves obervers
combine their coordination of body motions under the gravitational force
`seamless´ with the simulation of weightless objects in an illusory
space, the observers in a "CAVE" simulation orientate themselves
at a junction (`seam´) because only a part of their motions in the
narrow real space serves the navigation in the virtual space with a usually
wider simulated depth.
In "responsive environments" (see chap. V.1) observers have
to accomodate their body motions to technical interfaces with installation-specific
designs for explorations of the programmed possibilities to navigate in
the spaces of images. "Responsive environments" can not be explored
without cognitive reconstructions (observing operations, interface 2)
of the consequences that the navigations in the spaces of images have
for the body coordination at or on the technical interface (interface
1): The `seam´ as the coordination of a technical interface with
the cognitive interface (for the self orientation and the coordination
of body actions) provokes the coordination of different requirements of
the space of the image and the image space. The coordination of the two
ways of self orientation via switches from real spaces to spaces of images
and from spaces of images to real spaces (Raumbild/Bildraum, Bildraum/Raumbild)
demands a processual observation of the works modificating cognitive reconceptualisations
several times to integrate new experiences: The body coordination on the
technical interface and the orientation in the space of the image are
recoordinated in observing operations to accomodate the mental reconstruction
of an installation´s functions to new experiences and to develop
new explorative procedures as consequences from arising questions about
the installed work. This recoordination constitutes interface 3 in mediating
between interface 1 and interface 2 (see chap. VII.2.2, VIII.2).
The what and how of observations is presented in the three kinds of installations
explained above (`seam´ in "responsive environments",
`seamless´ in virtual reality, `seam´/`seamlessness´
in the CAVE") as an interface problem posing different requirements
for observing operations mediating between the orientations in the real
space and the space of the image (interface 3).
Dr. Thomas Dreher
Homepage with numerous articles
on art history since the sixties, a. o. on Concept Art and Intermedia
Copyright © (as defined in Creative
Commons Attribution-NoDerivs-NonCommercial 1.0) by the author, April
and July 2012 (German version)/December 2013 (English version).
This work may be copied in noncommercial contexts if proper credit is
given to the author and IASL online.
For other permission, please contact IASL
Do you want to send us your opinion or a tip? Then send us an e-mail.
1 Davies/Harrison: Osmose 1996, chap. The Effect Osmose
Has on Participants: "They [the immersants] seemed to involve an altered
mind/body state. In this state, it seems they paradoxically feel both
disembodied (because of the visual aesthetic, being able to float and
pass through things) and embodied (due to reliance on breath and balance),
On techniques of virtual realities and its use in "inclusive environments"
(see ann.6): Dinkla: Pioniere 1997, p.57-60; Grau: Art 2003, p.161-173;
Halbach: Interfaces 1994, p.170,187-214; Hattinger/Russel/Schöpf/Weibel:
Ars Electronica 1990; Heim: Realism 1998, p.98-107; Hünnekens: Betrachter
1997, p.54s.; Krueger: Reality 1991, p.65-76; Lovejoy: Currents 1997,
2 "Home of the Brain" thematises in its virtual
world the discourse on virtual reality via statements of Joseph Weizenbaum,
Marvin Minsky, Vilém Flusser und Paul Virilio. These four computer
scientists and philosophers of media inhabit four houses arranged around
a "forum". The "techno-imaginary" (see chap. IV.184.108.40.206)
is articulated in a medium presenting and reflecting its own characteristics.
This virtual space was used by observers with physical disabilities to
realise motions being impossible under gravitational forces for visitors
without disabilities (hardware: Computer von Silicon Graphics und Apple,
VLP-Dataglover, Eyephone. Software: Stew, Wavefront, In-House SW). Lit.:
Fleischmann: Jetztzeit 1996, p.401s.; Grau: Art 2003, p.217-231; Kluszynski:
Data 2011, p.14s.,24,26,41s.,66-73. back
3 Hardware: Silicon
Graphics Onyx Reality Engine, 2 personal computer ("PC clones")
with 2 Crystal River Engineering Convolvotrons, Macintosh II computer
with Sample Cell Audio Processing card, 2 Silicon
Graphics VGX computer, NeXT computer, Virtual Research VR helmets,
Sony microphones, Yamaha sound processors, sensor system "the Grippees"
(developed by Steve Saunders for "Placeholder"). Programmers:
Raonull Conover, Glenn Fraser, Graham Lundgren, Catherine McGinnis, Douglas
McLeod, Michael Naimark, Chris Shaw, Rachel Strickland, Rob Tow, Lloyd
White. Software: C, UNIX, Minimal Reality Toolkit, ALIAS animation software,
TCP. Lit.: Hayles: Virtuality 1996, p.15-21; Heim: Realism 1998, p.68-72,
fig.3.5-3.7; Laurel/Strickland: PlaceHolder 1994; Laurel/Strickland: Placeholder
1996; Laurel/Strickland/Tow: Placeholder 1994; Lovejoy: Currents 1997,
4 Observers obtain VR interfaces outside of the installation´s
chamber: In the chamber the observers move with this interface in the
simulations of ceiling, clouds, water, branches and plants via inhaling
and exhalation, among other actions. In the virtual space these operations
cause up- and downward movements. Hardware: Silicon
Graphics Onix Reality Engine 2, Division DVisor HMD, Polhemus Fastrak
for the measurement of head positions and the backbone gradients. A respiratory
waistcoat serves for the measurement of the chest´s elongation and
contraction. Animation: Georges Mauro with SOFTIMAGE 3D ("SoftImage
SAAPHIRE and DKIT development libraries...SGIs Performer and GL graphics
libraries." (Davies/Harrison: Osmose 1996, chap. Technical Details)).
Custom Software: John Harrison. Sound: Rick Bidlack, Dorta Blaszczak with
MIDI on a Macintosh computer. Localisation: Crystal River Acoustetron.
Lit.: Davies/Harrison: Osmose 1996; Grau: Art 2003, p.193-201; Hansen:
Bodies 2006, p.108-113,135; Heim: Realism 1998, p.162-167,171, fig.6.1-6.4;
Lunenfeld: Davies 1996; Manovich: Language 2001, p.261; Paul: Digital
Art 2003, p.126s. back
5 Via data helmets the observers are transfered to three
places a cave, a waterfall, a river valley in the ennvironment
of the Banff National Park in Alberta/Canada. There they appear optionally
as "Spider, Snake, Fish, and Crow." (Heim: Realism 1998, p.71;
Laurel/Strickland/Tow: Placeholder 1994. Cf. Hayles: Virtuality 1996,
6 "Inclusive environments": Bricken: Worlds
"Responsive environments": see chap. II.3 with ann.14. back
7 The use of the terms "seam" and "seamless"
was inspried by Mark Chalmers´ use of the terms "seamful"
and "seamless" (Chalmers/MacColl: Design 2003). Cf. Strauss/Fleischmann:
Architektur 2003, unpaginated, chap. Das Verschwinden der Interfaces:
"The new interfaces between humans and machines can´t be taken
as barriers anymore, because they are interfaces with tendencies either
to disappear or to become invisible."
"The interface as a location of seams" ("Die Schnittstelle
als Nahtstelle"): Neitzel/Nohr: Spiel 2006, p.16. back
8 Cruz-Neira/Sandin/DeFanti: Surround-Screen 1993, p.137.
Technical equipment: Cruz-Neira/Sandin/DeFanti: Surround-Screen 1993,
chapter 1.3, p.136ss. Cf. Grau: Art 2003, p.3s.,238,247,299; Heim: Realism
1998, p.99-107; Kacunko: Circuit 2004, p.111,642; Robbin: Shadows 2006,
9 Shaw: Movies 2002, p.271s.; Paul: Digital Art 2003,
10 The "internal observer" is constituted
by the possibilities programmed for (external) observers being enabled
by the technical interface to activate functions of the system (Dreher:
Weibel 1997, p.60, ann.49). back
11 Pape: Crayoland 2002. back
12 Vgl. Heim: Realism 1998, p.98-107 on the differences
between the "perceptive immersion" in "HMD VR" and
the "apperceptive immersion" in "CAVE VR". back
13 At the end of "CAVE" peresentations the
visitors of the Ars Electronica Center in Linz received colour prints
of the motifs photographed by them. Hardware: Two Silicon
Graphics Onyx Reality Engines. Programmers: Patrick Bouchaud, Kimi
Bishop and David Nahon. Sound: Jean-Bapiste Barrière. Lit.: Benayoun/Barrière:
World 1998; Grau: Immersion 2004, p.268; Hansen: Bodies 2006, p.88-94,
fig.1.8; Wilson: Information 2002, p.705ss. back
Table of Contents|
Bibliography | Next Chapter ]
[ Top | Index
NetArt Theory | Home