With the internet embedded in our daily lives, studies have shown that our attention span is less than that of a goldfish, about 8 seconds, whereas a goldfish has 9. This dramatically diminishes our capacity to fully absorb what we are perceiving at any given moment. Our installation uses virtual reality as a conduit for reversing these effects by bringing us to a higher state of perception via simulation.
Mind At Large is the concept Aldous Huxley presents in the Doors of Perception arguing that psychoactive drugs disable the filter of consciousness, allowing us to have an enlarged perception of reality. Modern tools, such as virtual reality, allows us to simulate states of higher consciousness without ingesting psychoactive drugs. Mind At Large appropriates objects and symbolism from The Doors of Perception and embeds them into a haptic feedback virtual reality art installation that includes tangible objects to interact with.
In the story, Huxley eats peyote and waits for its effects to take place in his office. Iconic objects are included in his description: a table, a chair, a flower, a bookshelf complete with books. All of these objects become vibrant and empowered with their very essence, revealing deeper and deeper truths and meaning behind their very being.
We implement the HTC Vive and Leap Motion to create a fully immersive, haptic feedback virtual reality environment. With this system we can precisely place physical objects into the space and render a virtual version of the objects to the headset from their physical locations. With the leap motion users can see their hands in the virtual environment and touch the virtual representations of the physical objects. Tangible objects are bolted to the floor and the walls so they cannot move. Lighting is low in the space with spot lights highlighting the physical objects. These lighting conditions are reflected in the virtual environment. Physical and virtual light switches are embedded in both environments with arduino micro controllers, this allows users to turn lights on and off in both the physical and virtual worlds. The monitor on the wall serves as a view of the user for other audience members to see what the user sees. In the virtual environment, the monitor is rendered as a window that users can look out of into another world.
When a user looks at a virtual rendering of a physical object, the object will look close to how it is in reality. However, if their gaze is held on an object for a certain duration, in a kind of meditation the object will begin to ‘breath’ and become abstracted. The longer the gaze is held the more abstracted the object becomes. When a user looks away and looks back, the object returns to its normal state since the user has lost their meditative focus.
Virtual reality becomes a catalyst for opening people’s perceptions of commonplace, everyday objects by simulating their uncommonly observed, deeper essence. As a result users focus should improve, and perhaps one day supersede that of a goldfish.