Thursday, September 11, 2008

Designers Developing Virtual-Reality 'Cocoon'

You're walking along a street in Roman Pompeii at the start of the first millennium when you notice a spectacular stone building. You reach out towards it and your guide informs you it's a temple to the god Jupiter, built in 200 BC. With a flick of your wrist you save the data and, school assignment complete, you step out of your Cocoon and back into your living room. Educational historical journeys are just one possible use of the Immersive Cocoon, a walk-in virtual-reality pod being developed by NAU, an international design collective that aims to revolutionize the way we interact with computers. When complete, the Immersive Cocoon will be a sleek and shiny human-sized dome. Step inside and you'll be enveloped by a 360° display screen and full surround sound. When the software boots up, instead of using a joystick or mouse to navigate the screens, motion-tracking cameras will follow the movement of your arms, legs and face, and a motion-sensitive platform will detect if you're walking or jumping.

1 comment:

Peter said...

The work of NAU and Asymptote is impressive but limited in its aspiration.

Tino Schaedler of NAU said of the Immersive Cocoon, "we have the whole body immersed inside." Really? Display screens and surround sound represent one level of immersion, but do they aim at a deep emotional response from participants?

Until ALL the senses are engaged, including scent, touch and internal biological responses—and traditional storytelling is adapted skillfully to the whiz-bang hardware—efforts like the Immersive Cocoon will remain primarily about gadgetry more than the evolutionary benefits of true sensory immersion.

Appropriately applied, technology should serve a human goal. Motion-tracking and content selection mechanisms are fine, but incorporating effective narrative techniques and the biological contribution of the user—as our company, Human Condition, has—will get us past the "glove and goggles" gadget hype to a serious evolution in how humans learn and grow.

Peter Raymond

Human Condition