10.000 moving cities – same but different, VR, detailed description

Interactive net-and-telepresence-based installation

10.000 moving cities - same but different - ZKM Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe - User
ZKM Karlsruhe

“10.000 moving cities – same but different” is an interactive net and telepresence-based installation that deals with globalized cities as changing ‘Non-Places’ in terms of Marc Augé. Visitors can select any city of the world using data goggles as digital interface in a virtual reality system. User-generated content linked to the selected city such as recent news, tweets, images, videos, and posts from social networks, is searched and retrieved in real time and displayed as a multiple moving collage onto the facades of an abstract urban environment. Through this kind of paradox virtual reality that actually obtains its audio-visual Information from the real world, the visitor discovers the local, cultural, and linguistic differences as well as the similarities of the globalization. Since Internet data are always changing, each request creates new representations of the world as the result of the relationship between the visitor’s decisions and the digital matrix. In this sense, the artwork explores how globalization creates “places without a local identity” – as described in Marc Augé’s essay Non-Lieux (1992) –, and stimulates a reflective attitude leant on a novel “immersive confrontation” with the digital society of our time.

The telepresence system used is a result of the interdisciplinary project e-Installation for the virtualization of media art (www.e-installation.org.)

Using a HTC Vive data google that hangs from the ceiling the user can walk inside a 6x6m space. People standing outside the installation can also see in a projection the user’s perspective. A 5.1 sound system transmit the sound to the exhibit space. Two sensors localize the user’s position and transmit it to the Unreal rendering engine that teleports the user into the desired cities.

Screenshot Video

Our team is very interdisciplinary:
Artist: Marc Lee
Technical Team: Antonio Zea (ISAS), Florian Faion (ISAS), Florian Pohl (ISAS)
Digital conservation and Curator: Jesús Muñoz Morcillo (ZAK)

ISAS | Intelligent Sensor-Actuator-Systems Laboratory at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), http://isas.uka.de
ZAK | Centre for Cultural and General Studies at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), http://www.zak.kit.edu

Support received from
ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, http://www.zkm.de
ISAS | Intelligent Sensor-Actuator-Systems Laboratory at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), http://isas.uka.de
ZAK | Centre for Cultural and General Studies at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), http://www.zak.kit.edu

For technical and curatorial support is responsible the interdisciplinary team of the project “e-Installation” at the KIT (ISAS-ZAK).

The ISAS and the ZAK supported Marc Lee for virtualizing the physical version of the installation on a technical and on a conceptual level within the research project “e-Installation – Synesthetic Documentation of Media Art via Telepresence Technologies” (see http://arxiv.org/abs/1408.1362).
An e-Installation is a virtualized media artwork that reproduces all synesthesia, interaction, and meaning levels of the artwork. Through the virtualization of “10.000 moving cities – same but different” a new level of conceptual consistency was achieved. For example, in the former version, users threw shadows over the images disturbing the perception of some pictures so that the synthetic city models paradoxically were less “real” than the shadow-free models of the virtual reality-based e-installation. The inexistence of space limitations in the virtualized version also contributes to a better and more complete experience. In this regard, there are hundreds of geometrical buildings distributed on the abstract landscape of the eternal city at all, i.e. the old Latium or Rome with its seven mythical hills. This classical quote for insiders enhances the artwork with new interpretative dimensions.

Conservation and dissemination of media art
As part of the research activities of “e-Installation” (www.e-installation.org) the artwork “10.000 moving cities – same but different” is not only an interdisciplinary creativity project but also an interesting case study for European conservators, with which we are connected via the INCCA network and research contacts with partners such as the Ludwig Múzeum Budapest, Reina Sofía Madrid and ZKM Karlsruhe. The present case study implies significant advances on a technical and theoretical level for the conservation and dissemination of media art at risk.
Museums are faced every day with the inexorable decline of media artworks. Media art pieces do not only require constant maintenance but they also may take up too much exhibition space. As a result, they are often dismantled for maintenance and repair, or they remain in the museum depot for long periods of time. When this happens, these artworks are no longer accessible to experts and the public. In this case, the virtualization is a great way to ensure the experience of media art.
Our interdisciplinary research team created not only a virtualized update of “10.000 moving cities”, making its exhibition much easier, but we also designed an encapsulated offline version that is able to store search results on a virtual server and display them in the same way as the online version of the artwork.

As for the artwork itself, it points out the global perspective of the profound digital information and communication revolutions we are exposed and which is unique in the history of Mankind. How can we be part of their goals? Where do we start? To understand the present situation, we give social network users a voice. They see things in the immediate vicinity. Their posts are personal points of views and a window to a changing world. As a gigantic sum, they provide a comprehensive picture of the world, a mirror of our society. They create awareness and move the global perspective in the foreground.

installation, software art, networked, virtual worlds, digital data, immerse, projection, speakers, VR, 3D, Telepresence, data processing, online worlds, interactive, tracking, virtualization, net art

Technical Details

  • Rendering PC
    • Windows 10
    • 10’000 moving cities App as Unreal Engine App
    • Steam VR
  • Webserver
    • Linux, Apache, PHP
    • 10’000 moving cities Web-App: PHP, HTML, CSS, JavaScript
    • API services: Flickr, Freesound, Twitter, Panoramio and Youtube

    1x Rendering PC
    1x HTC vive Head Mounted Display (HMD) with two HTC vive tracking sensors
    1x Beam-Projector
    1x 5.1 Audio system
    1x High-speed internet connection, ideally 10 Mbps download, 0.5 Mbps upload

    Technical Requirements
    The walking area of the installation should ideally have a size of 6x6m and a minimal size of 4x4m. Both HTC vive tracking sensors and speakers have to be fixed in two corners of the walking area at a height of approximately two meters. In order to maximize the tracking accuracy and the sound quality, it would be advantageous if the exhibition space is surrounded by walls on three of the four sides.
    The HMD is connected to the Rendering PC via HDMI and USB cable. For a clean and stumble-free installation of these cables, the exhibition space should ideally have a ceiling with a hook to hang them. The interface of “10.000 moving cities” is controlled solely by moving the head, focusing a target city on a wold map. Usability tests helped us to improve the system and achieve a robust, stable system.
    The installation includes 1 PC that have to be placed outside of the walking area.