A Night at the Museum with Virtual Reality

Adele Tiblier Company, Site, VR

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The Louisiana Art & Science Museum recently invited TurboSquid to participate in an event entitled “Art After Hours: The Art of Animation in Gaming & Film“. Our team set up stations that allowed museum visitors to experience virtual reality, many for the first time. The lines were long, but patience prevailed as so many were excited to not only try their hand at Google Tilt Brush, but also to watch others create works of art in VR.

Below are some recaps, highlights, and tips from the team that attended Art After Hours. You’ll see that we learned quite a few lessons from our first “VR road show”!

One thing that I found fascinating had to do with how people of different ages approached Google Tilt Brush. Here in the office, we’ve noted that people often get into Tilt Brush and treat it like a floating 2D paint program. Until we actively prompt users to walk around their creation and treat it like the 3D sculpture that it is, more often than not, they simply stand in place and sketch out a slightly spherized 2D image directly in front of themselves.

Overall, this is what tended to happen in the demos at LASM as well – but we did note an interesting difference. There were a lot of kids at the LASM, and I have to say, the kids really impressed me. If 60% of users defaulted to a 2D approach when they initially began using Tilt Brush, I’d say that of the 40% of users who immediately treated Tilt Brush as a 3D experience, about 70% of that group were kids. When it comes to unbridled creativity in a new medium, kids have always enjoyed a certain home-field advantage, and that certainly seemed to hold true in VR.

The VR demos were a great experience seeing how people reacted. It was fascinating how differently everyone approaches the medium. Many were doing it for the first time.

What really stood out to me as remarkable is when people would take it upon themselves to work together on something with Tilt Brush. One group took turns adding to their Tilt Brush file and created each element in their experience. Another group of teenagers worked together and played Pictionary, which worked great because it keeps others entertained while waiting in line.

It was nice to see some examples of social VR in practice and I look forward to seeing more. I really enjoyed all the people and they seemed to really enjoy the experience. I think the hardest part is having to tell people their time is up– for some reason, I just wanted to let them keep going and see what they came up with.

The first thing I can say is that I am very glad Beau and I arrived as early as we did. It’s always important to make sure the equipment is set up and working properly at any given location. Troubleshooting for four hours was the last thing I thought we’d be doing! There are always going to be bumps along the road, especially with such new and experimental equipment. Perseverance won in the end and we were able to get both systems up and running. Even with the heavy delay, I knew it was worth it as soon as those demos began.

I’ve given a fair number of demos in the TS office. I can never really know what to expect because every person has a different reaction to what they are seeing. The beauty of giving multiple demos in a night is to hear one reaction after another. The excitement and awe feeds from one person to the next and constantly builds as more people get the headsets on. The children are incredibly inspiring to watch and listen to, not only to myself, but to the adults watching. I think VR is something that can broaden the mind and expand the imagination, no matter the age; to hear the exclamations of joy and wonder from people young and old was exactly why I love working within VR and hope to continue pursuing this new and exciting path.

More than watching little kids try out VR for the first time– which was awesome– I loved seeing adults trying on the headsets. The kids were super enthusiastic about it and sort of had an idea of what they were getting into. You could tell that most of the parents had absolutely no idea what anything would look like inside the headset, and their minds were just completely blown. One of the moms kept asking what her kid was seeing, and we were all scratching our heads trying to explain it— we really couldn’t explain that, like, she was going to be seeing a whole new space. So when Mom put the headset on, and she finally got it, you could tell she and her kid were really excited. (And my favorite part was when the kid immediately jumped to, “So, now you know why I want you to buy this for me, right?”)
Certainly, getting to the venue early turned out to be prescient, as our setup time was extraordinarily long. Yeesh. As it turns out, new technology like VR always finds a way to make public demos more of an adventure than you might ever expect and I would never have imagined that our machines would decide on that evening to simply not handle direct HDMI inputs properly.

As for the event itself, it was gratifying to see the turnout and to see the amount of interest in VR and animation. Lines for the two Vive demo pods were long enough that the LASM curator allowed them to stay open during the presentations, simply to accommodate the overwhelming desire by attendees to try them out. That was further exemplified with the event itself, which was supposed to end at 7:30pm and ran until 9pm because attendees didn’t want to leave. In running the Leap Motion Blocks demo, I was surprised to see how many younger attendees were able to quickly adapt to the natural hand motions required to create the different blocks and control gravity, and their stacking skills turned out to be impressive, with several achieving double-digit stacks that were taller than they were. Finally, it was great to see the LASM team respond warmly to the potential that VR offers for art and science education and that they are already thinking ahead on how to best leverage VR for future exhibits and events.