(Un)Balance is an experience in XR (extended reality) which rethinks human-spaces interactions by foregrounding the notion of embodiment. It provokes body awareness, movement and exploration.
(un)Balance was developed at the Interactive Architecture Lab through a series of iterations and prototypes tested namely at Ars Electronica Festival 2018.
Here I will take you through this process which lead to the final experience design.
Initial research and experiments.
After experimenting with goal-oriented games, such as reaching and avoiding, I started exploring the relationships between movements and perception of the body, both physical and virtual, as well as the perception of the world. This lead me to the use of XR, where physical and virtual experiential tools are combined to create a new reality.
The notion of balance came as the node of the experience, as a way to engage the whole body from core to extremities.
The first element of this experience is a tilting platform. Pivoting around its centre, it is cushioned by foam blocks. While the participant explores the world, causing the platform to tilt, the horizon of the world and rain like particles in the sky respond to the rotations of the platform. This resulted in the attention of the participant being directed outwards and slow to very fast movements engaging mainly the bottom half of the body.
Prototype 2: Encouraging full body movements through augmenting the perception of the body in movement.
Following the first prototype, I focused on ways to engage the upper part of the body in the experience. In this aim, I developed wearables allowing an additional weight to be displaced on the body while moving. Different materials were used, giving the wearables more. or less linear responses. Different locations on the body were also tested. Working with dancer Tia Hockey, I analysed how different parameters would influence movement exploration, encouraging different qualities of movement, in the form (curve or lines)but also in the speed and force (slow, impulsive, projective, pauses). The haptic sensation of the beads vibration as well as their sound feedback became an integrant part of the design, adding layers of information guiding the participant. While the combination of the platform and apparels are successful with a professional mover, the same experience does not fully involve the widest more inhibited audience.
Prototype 3: Augmenting the perception of the body in movement through XR.
The third prototype looked at how to combine VR with the apparel and platform, in the aim of allowing a wider audience to get fully immersed in the experience. Here the body emits particles responding to the movements of the participant and rotations of the platform, visually supporting the behaviour of the physical beads shifting within the apparel. Bringing the experience to Ars Electronica allowed for a large public to play and explore, from children to adults, people who never experienced Vr to professionals. People started moving, from head to toe, slow to fast, exploring the limits of their own bodies. The experience brought their attention mainly inward.
Credits: Wearable designer _ Farid Akmal, Dancer _ Tia Hockey.