Virtual reality may not quite be the tech that all the kids are doing these days, but there are entire communities interacting in VR worlds.

This week, we hear about an 87-year-old drag queen who is the subject of a new VR narrative documentary, gearheads who are using VR to learn how to dismantle a car transmission while the transmission is still running and the fantastic UX designer Crystal Rutland talks about using VR in her firm’s practice. 


The artists Kristin Lucas and William Pappenheimer try out the augmented reality flamingo heads, as seen through a HoloLens headset, that Lucas created during the Oregon Story Board research residency.

The artists Kristin Lucas and William Pappenheimer try out the augmented reality flamingo heads, as seen through a HoloLens headset, that Lucas created during the Oregon Story Board research residency.

Courtesy Oregon Story Board

Learn about flamingos through VR -3:36

Imagine a gallery where you can step into a painting, fly through the ceiling to the heavens above, or learn a dance from a virtual flamingo. It’s not a world far off. Virtual and augmented reality stand to transform the art world and the tech incubator Oregon Story Board is on the front lines.

Artist Kristen Lucas created a virtual reality world involving flamingos after a December snowstorm raged outside of OSB’s Portland office.

“I’m interested in making an augmented reality experience,” she said, “in which [participants] receive a dance lesson, and they’re doing a multi-species dance with a flamingo.”

She created a program that allowed the user to experience what it’s like to be a flamingo through augmented reality. The idea is that a flock of strangers could don VR headsets and do the flamingo dance in sync with each other and their virtual flamingo instructors, to raise awareness that few flocks of actual flamingos remain on Earth, due to habitat destruction.

For her work, Lucas was included in a big Engadget event in Los Angeles and has created an app, “Flarmingo,” which allows any user to experience her program.


 

Screenshot from the trailer for the new VR movie "Through Darcelle's Eyes"

Screenshot from the trailer for the new VR movie “Through Darcelle’s Eyes”

Courtesy 360 Studios

Using virtual reality as narrative storytelling - 14:34

One of the most tantalizing developments in virtual reality’s latest leap forward is the possibility of fully immersive storytelling.

A new documentary takes full advantage of VR to tell the amazing story of Darcelle XV, the octogenarian drag queen whose reign in Old Town is the stuff of legend.

87-year-old Darcelle XV, AKA Walter Cole, has been doing drag for more than 50 years.

He says when the team at 360 Labs approached him, he wasn’t clear on what they wanted to do. VR narrative experiences are new for a lot of people, including some working in the industry.

When you don the headset and enter 360 Labs’ VR experience, called “Through Darcelle’s Eyes,” Darcelle will receive you in the rococo sequin-spangled parlor of her home.

And as Darcelle chats, you can actually turn your head and poke around. Remember — there’s no flat screen. You can see anywhere you want within a 360-degree field. Her house is full of a lifetime collection of gowns, crowns, jewelry, trophies, gilt china, chandeliers.

You can catch the full VR documentary, “Through Darcelle’s Eyes,” Oct. 10.


A supporter of Portland Playhouse tours the planned renovation with a VR visualization made by SERA Architects.

A supporter of Portland Playhouse tours the planned renovation with a VR visualization made by SERA Architects.

April Baer/OPB

Using virtual reality in architecture - 23:37

If you ever started on a household project and finished with something that looks completely different than what you had in mind, you’ll surely appreciate how VR is showing a path in the built environment.  

None can be more appreciative than the experts at the architect firm SERA Architects, who are currently in the middle of renovating the historic Portland Playhouse.

By using virtual reality, Brian Stevens, SERA’s visualization expert, and software developer Marshall Nystrom were able to fully recreate the finished model of the playhouse.

SERA architects explained that the gap between VR and physical reality is still a barrier for many people. The firm is currently trying to bridge that mental distance by sharing objects from one space with the other.  For example, using a camera, they capture many still images of an object or a space and use them to create a 3D model.

 SERA is on schedule to finish its renovation of the Portland Playhouse in January 2019.

 


Clackamas Community College student Eddie Zamora looking at the transmission hologram as seen through his Hololens.

Clackamas Community College student Eddie Zamora looking at the transmission hologram as seen through his Hololens.

Courtesy Oregon Story Board

Virtual reality in the classroom - 28:19

Virtual and augmented reality has the potential to transform the classroom and how we learn everything from history to astronomy to engineering.

Take, for example, the transmission of a car. Like many complex systems, it’s a beast to teach. But the students at Clackmas Community College are using augmented reality to learn how the transmission works. 

Through Microsoft’s HoloLens, students are able to see a 3-D representation of a car transmission right on their workstation. They can see exactly how the transmission works, take it apart, and put it back together, without having the hassle of physical pieces cluttering up their stations.

The technology elevates augmented reality from phone- based apps like “Pokémon Go” to a level that leaves even jaded inventors filled with awe and wonder.

“It’s pretty amazing,” said Eddie Zamora, wearing the traditional blue mechanics jumpsuit with the not-so-traditional HoloLens. “I think this will help me on my power flow [exhaust system] for sure.”


Crystal Rutland is the CEO of the UX design firm Particle Design.

Crystal Rutland is the CEO of the UX design firm Particle Design.

Courtesy Crystal Rutland

Virtual reality as part of UX design, with Crystal Rutland - 34:02

UX designer Crystal Rutland is the CEO of Particle Design, a Portland firm that helps companies like Jaguar, DreamWorks and HP figure out if their products are giving people a good user experience. Sometimes this involves VR.

Rutland says VR is just part of the larger interface between the real and digital worlds.

“The space has to match the relationship between your eyes and your brain,” She said. “As long as what you’ve designed obeys the laws of physics, our brain immediately interprets it as a real space.”

But could VR experiences become too real? Rutland doesn’t necessarily think so.

“What we’re entering into right now is our technology is actually offering us experiences that are more exciting and more addictive than most things we have access to in the real world,” she said.