Show Show put on a special VR-AR performance this Friday, December 8th 2017. I had honestly never seen anything like it before. The night went something like this:
Before and after the show, Alicia Navarrette (website here) showcased an augmented reality card game that she co-created with a number of local animators. Alicia is a Creative Producer and Strategy Consultant out of Portland, Oregon.
From what I gathered, this AR project was in the making for over a year (see end of article for show credits). The game's genre is somewhere between rock-paper-scissors and Magic The Gathering, with wacky psychedelic art featured on each card. When a player draws a set of rock paper and scissors from the same artist, they can place them on this surface to be detected by the webcams, triggering and unlocking an animation by that same artist. Very cool!
Ben Chapin (website here), one of the animator/illustrator/designers that contributed to the project, was present at the show. We had a minute to chat and I found out later that he organizes a small animation festival in Portland called Overlapping Action. The website includes samples of his work, for example this reel called Grow that's reminiscent of Bill Plympton's work in its fast-paced facial transformations:
The show began around 7:30 with an introduction from producer-host Melody Rowell (website here). She's funny as hell and did a great job keeping the crowd engaged. The first segment of the night featured four comedians, including Chris Ettrick, Marcus Coleman, Caitlin Weiehauser, and Becky Braunstein.
Each of the comedian's bits were followed by a 15-45 second live VR experience where they put on a helmet and narrated their experience in front of the audience. What made this so mind bending was that, unbeknownst to the audience, each of the VR segments were crafted based on content from their jokes.
Chris joked about hiding his alcoholism under the guise of holiday celebrations and then played Beer Pong VR. Caitlin asked a confounding question to the audience - has anyone ever seen squirrel poop? Where does it go? Do dogs eat it? Shortly after, she was in a field outdoors throwing fireballs at oncoming squirrels.
During the final segment of the night, Matthew Hunter (Mechlo / in-house Chiptune DJ @ Ground Kontrol) brought down the house with an OCTOTRACK sequencer and midi notes pulled straight of an NES soundcard. While we listened to his music, a second round of visual treats were disseminated; this time around, the audience was brought into the fold with home-made controllers that allowed us to interact with the animations on screen.
Once again, they blurred the lines by creating games based on the stories and jokes from earlier in the night. For example, comedian Marcus Coleman lamented the pains of getting old and pulling a muscle during sex... while he's on the bottom. So of course one of the games required the audience to synchronize-tap as his face flew across the screen. If we all tapped while his face was inside the silhouette (see image above) then he would lay down and thrust his hips into the air. If we failed and tapped prematurely, the screen shook and turned red, with his expressive face contorting in pain, presumably from the pulled muscle.
I spoke with tech director Michael Hill after the event to find out more about his background and role in the project. He designed both the hardware and software that ran the crowd gaming experience. He also built all of the VR games and provided the hardware to run them. Michael has a BA in Multimedia Arts and Sciences, a minor in Computer Science from UNC Asheville, and has worked with several Portland companies including Dot Dot Dash, Second Story, and Wieden Kennedy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @wildparadox.
If you didn't make it out for this event, I hope this article has inspired you to keep tabs on them in the future. You can find video footage of the event at my instagram page here (located at the Show Show Poster bookmark): https://www.instagram.com/ezrasbell/
Melody Rowell - Show Show Executive Producer
Michael J. Hill - VR developer and crowd gaming engineer
Crowd game developers - Cristiano Ferreira, Ben Scheiner, Mitch Rivet, Kelly Gawne
Crowd game artists - Grayson Bear, Ben Chapin, Sophya Vidal, Seven Bloom, Kelly Fry
AR developers - Alicia Navarrette, Yori Kvitchko
Show Show Lab: http://showshowlab.com/
Show Show Lab on Twitter: https://twitter.com/showshowlab
Facebook event details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/337177823359435/