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“It is very exciting to work in mixed reality because you are not only creating a story and an environment but also the user, the audience, are seeing themselves inside the movie, inside the virtual space, and making decisions that affect the story. So it’s not only creating a story but a world of possibilities for the audience which is also a user. It’s totally new way of thinking of filmmaking”
Mark Boulous, Author, in Imverse.
Elastic time is a 10-minute mixed reality documentary that creates an interactive environment to explore space-time phenomena. Surrounded by Kinect sensors, the body of the participant is tracked and recreated in real time inside the virtual space. Placed inside an observatory, the participant sees the astrophysicist Tony Stark, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who is sitting underneath a telescope talking about the big bang, theory of relativity, and other theoretical thoughts about time and space.
What is particularly enthralling about this project is the way it designs a simple reflection on complex scientific concepts from an embodied perspective. Using the Oculus rift hand controller, the participant can move a little black dot which embodies a black hole, bending space and slowing time in the experience. At a certain point, the participant is sucked up through a wormhole into another dimension where they are surrounded by a circular timeline containing images of their past moments lived in the documentary. Using the controller the participant can select one of those instants and go back into that time space, experiencing themselves as a hologram from a third-person perspective.
According to the creative team, this is the first time a real-time self-body image has been shown to the public in VR. The project premiered at this year’s Sundance New Frontier section, and is directed by the video artist Mark Boulous, and created and produced by Imverse. Starting from the idea of building relative space-time in VR, they developed the necessary technologies for generating the real-time volumetric 3D capture of the user’s body and the volumetric recording of the astronomer. They used a proprietary voxel-based (volumetric pixels) graphics engine and Imverse LiveMaker software (similar to Photoshop) to transform the observatory space from a single 2D 360° picture to a volumetric 3D environment. The Imverse team spent five years working on this technology at the EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne, having begun before the Oculus rift was even launched.