Summer project

developed with the "HapTeam" [Deepak Pakhare, Oscar Salazar and Rikako Sakai]

How can you enhance a visit to a virtual museum of sculptures?

MEME is the result of a summer project developed at PERCRO (Perceptual Robotics) lab in Pisa. Percro is developing an haptic interface to visit a virtual museum of sculptures (Museum of Pure Forms).
The aim of our project was the design of the overall experience of a user visiting a virtual and a real museum (Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Pisa), providing a commun thread between the two.
Our solution was the development of a narrative and of a virtual/physical agent (Meme), related to the world of sculpture, able to guide the visitor in the virtual/real tour.

The problem: the quality of the haptic interaction

We delved upon the inherent qualities of ‘real-ness’ of the haptic interaction and we came to this consideration, ‘By touching, I don’t feel any texture or specific temperature…’
This appeared to be a negative feeling compared to the sensorial richness of reality. So our problem was to transform this limitation into a positive attribute. How?
A positive attribute of something that is not real could be termed as ‘Ethereal’.
By looking for a metaphor within the ‘pure forms’ [the name of the exposition is "Museum of Pure Forms"] context we rationalized touching sculptures as akin to ‘touching’ a creative idea - with only a perceived form and no material existence in itself unless crafted into or imparted to a material (stone, marble etc. in case of sculptures) thus retaining the inner qualities of sublimity and purity of such an idea.

Moreover those virtual qualities fulfill an expectation - It’s a feeling that is not possible in the real world – and so suitable and in a way, expected, from the virtual world experience. To lend credence to this hypothesis, we then asked, would it be fair to say that in the VE one experiences the idea, the inspiration, that was in the mind of the artist and not the real sculpture.

This way, the experience can be mapped to the feeling of a shape without (or an approximate) perceptual feedback connected with the experience of sculptures.

The work is documented in a website and in a blog.