A few articles ago I wrote about the zen zoning out impact that games can have, like that of the increasingly prevalent Animal Crossing. The past few weeks I have found some more VR focussed in part this crossed over with my professional research at 451 Research part of S&P Global Market Intelligence as one particular experience was part of the 11th Augmented World Expo #awe2020 that ran virtually in the last week of May. I usually attend that event in Santa Clara, but this year instead watched the streamed talks, live Q&A sessions and a mixture of side events in a collection of virtual environments. This though is a personal view not part of that work, though the boundaries of social and work blur further in virtual environments than anywhere else. I have written about this a lot over the years but found myself addressing it again and the emotional impact of the virtual (as opposed to video) over at my feeding edge blog.

Virtual Pottery

The first of the couple of experiences I wanted to share was when I decided to download Lets Create! Pottery VR. It is exactly what it sounds like. Pottery, in VR, sits you in front of a spinning potter’s wheel which you drop virtual clay onto. Then using one hand you press or pull the clay in and out, up and down creating all sorts of shapes. Once created you fire the pot and then take to decorating it. Various tools and colours let you create your work of art. Once done you either put it on a pedestal in your potting room or you drop it into a simulated auction. Depending on how “good” the pot is you get an amount of cash, which you can then spend on new paints, shapes and even clay types. You start to get commissions, people ask for a certain pot (they send a photo) decorated a certain way. BY eye you have to try and get as close to it as possible, a little star system for height, shape and decoration pings as you get closer to a 5 star finish. Getting the right patent and colour variation is sometime tricky but if you mess the pot up, auction it off and start again.

The dynamic is simple, the VR nature of it is just manually grasping or pushing the clay, but it is utterly absorbing. My first session was due to be a quick try out and it was 2 hours later I emerged. I had experienced flow whilst in there and felt really energized and happy when I finished. I even caught myself pondering how our little garlic pot in the kitchen might be done in VR. Whatever was going on with it though it was relaxing, yes I got the odd growl in when I bought the wrong pattern for the commission, especially when I was streaming it live to Facebook. What a world we live in that I can stream my virtual pottery to a social media platform? Of course this reminded me that TV used to play a potter’s wheel film when there was nothing else on (a little before I was born I might add). So maybe we have not advanced that far!

Art appreciation

I mentioned the AWE 2020 conference earlier and it was as part of the agenda that people were invited to organized sessions in an VR application called Museum of Other Realities (MOR). You can see its launch trailer on the website. It operates both as an offline application and as an online experience. It is a full modern art gallery that you can wander around in VR with lots of different types of art installations in place. There are static, but 3D modelled scenes, moving artworks flowing around, objects to interact with touch and sound. Each piece has a plaque describing the artist and the piece of work. If online you can share the visit with others. You have ghostly avatar and can choose to be present or not. I do love social interaction online, but I also like to go and explore on my own, so that’s what I did. I have not seen every piece of work yet, but again it was another 2 hours of wonder and interest. The artists are all really talented, the styles utterly diverse.

The presentation and experience is quite beautiful. Some things are tiny, some are huge. Scale doesn’t matter in VR, as in it can be whatever it needs to be. The gallery shows that it does technically matter in order to have the right impact. The smooth lines of the building that houses the pieces, suitably spaced apart or just visible through doorway or down a slope is as much part of the art as the pieces themselves. With my techie hat on I sometimes thought, how did they do that effect? Also the pieces are all built in different tools then brought to the gallery and installed. Quill, Tiltbrush, Medium etc all feature. This gives even more variety, yes they are all pixels but the tools impart a different feel.

Conclusion – art works

We are potentially coming out of lockdown but for now we are stuck at home. I feel blessed to have VR tech available to me to try out these things. Despite being in and around virtual worlds for decades, and having documented how it feels and what it does to us I have been surprised the impact some of these experiences are having on me, for the better. I am sure it is not just me either. I hope that many more people find a way to give some of these a go and not slavishly video conference because “that’s the way we have always done it” for every experience.