Participants explore mixed and virtual reality applications in Experimental Visualization Platforms workshop

A free two-day workshop at the RISD Nature Lab and the Center for Computation and Visualization (CCV) at Brown University recently offered participants a chance to explore mixed and virtual reality technologies, and think about new ways of sharing research using VR as a tool and artistic inquiry as a method.

Taught by Lucia Monge (Nature Lab Operations and Engagement Coordinator), John Huffman (Manager, User Services at the Center for Computation and Visualization), and Ben Knorlein (Application Scientist, Graphics at the Center for Computation and Visualization), the workshop was an interdisciplinary affair. Attendees included undergraduate students, graduate students, alumni, and staff of the RISD Museum, Library, and Nature Lab, as well as from URI's Graduate School of Oceanography and the Office of University Research External Relations.

Participants experienced advanced VR technology at the YURT and Graphics Lab at CCV and learnt about accessible tools and processes in AR and VR at RISD Nature Lab. Thematic inquiry of the workshop included virtual reality as a tool for visual communication, environmental representation, and scientific research communication. Virtual reality was explored as a means for sharing research and looking at everyday experiences with nature and information in new and engaging ways.

Many rich discussions of possible future uses of these technologies and methods took place. One attendee noted, "I think AR and VR enhance exploration because viewers can manipulate a scene. Even the simple act of being able to shift perspective and pan around a space transforms a spectator into a participant." Another commented on the potential to "communicate certain ideas that require the audience to really feel" or to understand the lived experiences of others — whether human, flora, or fauna.

This workshop was funded by RIEPSCoR and will be repeated this upcoming Fall semester.

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