Virtual Reality on $5 a Day

by Ron Kuivila

This was a very interesting and involved exhibit. The name of it speaks to me of all those whirlwind, discount travel guides, and after having experienced this display, I felt about as equally disoriented. The main portion is comprised of two sections, one which is accessed through a head mounted display, and the other which is interacted with via a pair of video cameras. The video cameras pick up your image and places a constellation-like representation of you in the three-dimensional space. In this space, a group of flying helmets are attracted to the trail of lights that follow your movements. They have a humorous aspect to them, and make funny jabbering noises as they follow you around. Meanwhile, another person can don the head mounted display and data glove and actually fly around in this space. On the ground are huge card houses, which you can navigate through. It is graphically very good, and there are lots of interesting things to see. Part of the artists concept was that this was all part of an imaginary futuristic corporation known as Informatique Oblique. So periodically advertisements for IO would come up on the screen. I found this very disconcerting when wearing the HMD because there was no escape. You COULDN'T look away! The ads were rather funny, and offered services such as personal husbandry (where you grow your own steaks out of your thigh), exercise classes (finger exercises for your dataglove hand), and Intelligence Mining (using people to play games that really represent corporate problems or whatever). This was not a happy holodeck Star Trek vision of the future, despite the fact that I found myself laughing at a lot of it.