Immersive Environments

Information, references, and resources for the Immersive Environments course at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Art & Technology Department
Friday, 9-4
Michigan 414

Course Description:
The term Immersive Environments describes an area of scientific and artistic research concerned with the creation of virtual spaces through simulation technology. The field includes the study of virtual reality, or VR, but draws from numerous disciplines including theater, architecture, cybernetics, philosophy, sound, installation, and film. The impact of this technology lies not just in its actual uses but in the way its potentialities serve as a framework for larger cultural and philosophical issues, creating a potent mythology.
This advanced course will provide a forum for exploration of the conceptual issues surrounding VR and immersive technologies, from warfare and entertainment to questions of representation, perception, and consciousness. Readings from theorists, tech-evangelists, and critics will be combined with examples of VR artworks, entertainment technologies, and representations of VR from pop culture.
Students will develop immersive environment projects using a combination of 3D graphics, interactivity, and immersive sound, and will become familiar with the process of developing the custom hardware and software components in a VR system. Tutorials and hands-on exercises will introduce the full range of skills involved in creating immersive environments, though collaboration will be emphasized for project development.

Requirements:
Complete assignments and Final project, participate in class discussions, show work and participate in final critique.
Attendance: more than 3 absences may result in a grade of No Credit.

Prerequisite:
Any 3000-level ATS class. Suggested courses: 3D Animation, Interactive Multimedia, Flash Programming, Electronics, Sound Installation, Experimental Programming, Programming for Sound.
A Few Technical Details:
The system we are using is a single-wall, projection-based VR display system with 6-channel sound for spatialized audio. For graphics, it uses the CAVE library and the Yggdrasil (YG) authoring language for constructing environments. We will be using Maya for modeling, though students are encouraged to explore other tools as well. There are no specific prerequisites, however experience in Linux, programming, 3D modeling, MAX, or electronics is helpful.
Online Resources:
http://www.bcchang.com/immersive (class website)
http://www.evl.uic.edu/yg (Ygdrasil Programming Reference)


Course Outline (Subject to Change):

1. Introduction to Immersive Environment, History, and Background

Overview of immersive and illusionistic spaces, virtual reality, and virtual reality artworks
Introduction to Linux, the CAVE, and Ygdrasil
Virtual-reality Found Object Assemblage

history overview >>>

2. Creating virtual worlds

Reading: Lunenfeld, "VR: Camera Rasa"
Introduction to modeling in Maya; using Maya models in Ygdrasil

3. Space and Information

Reading: Grau, "Spaces of Knowledge"
Creating environments and avatars in YG; transforms; user nodes; Fog and sky; lighting; text.

4. Nature and Virtuality

Reading: Smith, "The Production of Nature"
Texturing; scanning and digital photo capture in Linux; texturing in Maya Billboard texturing in YG; alpha masks

5. Space and vision

Reading: Hillis, "Digital Sensations"
Basic interactivity ? wandTrigger, userTrigger, pointAtTrigger, switch, select.

6. Audio

Reading: Dyson, "When is the Ear Pierced?"
Audio in YG; digitizing and editing sound in Audacity
(advanced) : Spatialized audio in SuperCollider

7. Midterm Presentations

Reading: Hayles, "Embodied Virtuality"

8. Simulation and Simulacra

Reading: Baudrillard, "Precession of Simulacra"
Animation : timers in YG, exporting animation from Maya

9. Psychogeography, Flanerie, and the Pleasures of Navigation

Large-scale world design; modularity; teleportation

10. TeleImmersion and the Uncanny

Networking CAVEs; multi-user environments

11. Metaphysics

Reading: Heim, "The Erotic Ontology of Cyberspace"
Counters, values, flags, decision-making

12. Metaphysics (II)

Reading: Markley, "Boundaries: Mathematics, Alienation, and the Metaphysics of Cyberspace"

13. Work Day

14. Final Critique