Virtually Real

Everybody hates Mondays. Rainy, lazy, dark winter Monday nights are made to stay home and drink tea under your favourite blanket. Even more so when there is a tube strike, and all zone 1 stations are shut, forcing Londoners onto the streets, a moody wet mass crawling through the city. Against all odds, I set off on an hour-long walk under the rain to escape from the chaos of the city into a parallel reality at Virtually Real, the newest jewel of the Royal Academy of Arts.

JuditWelcomed by prosecco and canapés under the warm lights of the RA, we embarked on a peculiar journey beyond reality alongside gallery owners and journalists. Immersed in an interactive and eclectic array of shapes and colours, the participants in Adham Faramawy’s VR experience were invited to create their own artworks in front of a green screen with the help of a Google Tilt Brush. Their figure, camouflaged in their creations, was projected on a screen for the eager audience to watch while they awaited their turn. After almost an hour of impatient queueing, we managed to enter the HTC Vive world created by Jessie Jetpacks, third-year RA School student. The surreal character of her virtual 360 video was enhanced by the 18th century paintings hanging on the walls of the room. Walking through, under and above her creations, immersed in an eerie soundtrack, you could wander between the wooden floors of the RA and a moon-like landscape inhabited by trilobites.

What it is like to use Google Tilt Brush

This exhibition shows that we are barely starting to realize the vast potential of Virtual Reality in fields such as medical research or gaming, not to mention the art world. In fact, promoting collaboration between scientists and artists has been a rising trend in public engagement of science. As a result, the line between science and arts is slowly but steadily becoming a blurred shadow of what it used to be.

As scientists, it is important to keep in mind that promoting this collaboration will not only improve scientific research but will also help in the evolution of artistic techniques. VR and computer software such as Kodon have indeed already proven this by radically changing the art world. As Matt Hancock, Minister for Digital and Culture said, “Virtual reality’s influence in the creative industries is emerging all the time and this shows the possibilities it offers. The collaboration is a fantastic example of how state-of-the-art technology can be used to create innovative and exciting art”.

Virtually Real is open to the public until the 14th of January at the Royal Academy.

Judit Agui is studying for an MSc in Science Communication.

Banner Image: Woman with VR glasses, franz12

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