DIY-VR: SENS VR Report
For my presentation with Nai-Chen, we chose the title S.E.N.S. VR – a virtual reality experience with graphic novel aesthetics. A mystery told in three ten-minute parts, the user follows (and sometimes becomes) a film noir detective as he follows a series of clues across a bleak, geometric landscape. The piece was inspired and created in collaboration with the graphic novelist Marc Antoine Mathieu.
At first glance, what sets SENS VR apart from other VR experiences is its minimal visual design and the piece succeeds because it commits to a strong aesthetic. Rather than work to make the user feel that they’re in a real location, the creators play with how simple lines and shadows can create a sense of space and movement. Like an M.C. Escher drawing, dimensions expand and collapse depending on how you look at a line. It also recognizes VRs potential to play with concepts of space and the ability to break rules, particularly those related to perception and physics. Shifts in scale, line, and color open up potential new realities to explore that didn’t exist the moment before.
The interaction itself is fairly simple, making use of the reticle and wayfinding. To move to the next location, the user looks across the space they’re in for some kind of object or sign that will launch them to another location. The piece also plays around with expectations of the user’s role. Sometimes you seem to play the detective character, clued in by visuals to give you the sense that you’ve flown into his body or see his shadow follow you as you walk about in space. Other times, the user is brought outside the body of the detective, floating above as some kind of watchful sidekick. This process is repeated several times throughout the experience.
By using wayfinders as the primary interaction, I noticed that as opposed to other VR pieces where I usually spend time constantly circling around to see everything the 360 construction can afford, I only looked around if the next arrow wasn’t already in my view or if there was a particularly beautifully drawn scene. I was more interested in passing through each scene, getting to each next point as quickly as I could to see how the space would change. As a user, we don’t really understand what exactly it is that we are searching for beyond the next arrow yet feel compelled to continue pushing forward, even just to know what optical tricks and creative line work will come next.
Some things we read: