Week 4 Blog – Virtual Interactions

In this weeks readings, Wilson introduced us to the world of body and medicine. As technology gets more advanced, more boundaries are being crossed both physically and morally. One of the more contested interactions between technology and other fields is the cross between technology and the body. Virtual reality is finally becoming readily available for consumers along with its many implications. Through these progressions, we as a society must ask questions relating to the relationship between the body and the technological or virtual. As of now, the possibilities are endless with body related technologies such as body enhancements, pleasure enhancers, virtual interaction etc. The project I will be talking about includes a virtual interaction project created almost a decade ago. This project can tell us how far our technological advances have progressed within the last ten years.

Artists Stahl Stenslie, Knut Mork Skagen, Marius Watz and Kate Pendry had created a project named “Senseless” in 1996. The project included a virtual reality, multi-sensory environment which included a sensor head mount, goggles, and a “magic wand” for navigation. The user wears a vibrational body suit that reacts to “creatures” within the virtual world. The environment consists of a transparent five meter “egg” made by plastic which is suspended by metal arms over a steel platform. The user steps inside the egg with the aforementioned gear and the audience outside can see the user within the virtual world from the outside. A speaker system is able to broadcast everything the user hears to the audience. The body suit sends vibrations through the user upon touching or being touched by one of the “creatures.”

There a total of five creatures which inhabit this world. They have alien-like bodies and human voices in order to interact with the user. Each creature has its own personality and as a result, they tell their personal stories based off real life people experiences. The world that the creatures live in is a constantly changing network structure based on real time data derived from the internet. In this way, users on the internet become points in this network which control the waypaths of these creatures who preside in the environment. The creatures names are Jean Claude (a pollen-like creature), Amanda (a tail-like creature who randomly appears in different areas), Harold (who looks like many cubes with sticks embedded in each), and Autista (who is a red diamond with a invisible sphere surrounding it, which on the outside of the sphere, there are red pages rotating on the sphere).

By having these virtual creatures interact with humans through multiple senses, a boundary is broken between the body and virtual. In this situation, we can decide whether the relationships between the two are real or fabricated. At what point do we classify a relationship as real rather than just a “virtual interaction.” Eventually technology will be programmed to be more human-like, crossing that uncanny valley. In the past, these thoughts were considered unattainable and was only sci-fi. However as these situations become more real, a whole new world opens up to the existing world. Instead of finding aliens from space, we have created them on earth. 

-David Wang A08750356

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