Project Update – Fall Semester, 2016

Thesis

General Update

This semester begins my (hopefully only) year-long Thesis project for a Master of Fine Arts in Visual Communication Design (Interaction Design) at Rochester Institute of Technology. My Thesis advisor is Dan de Luna (https://cias.rit.edu/faculty-staff/149) an excellent Motion Graphics artist and skilled painter.

The idea of my thesis has changed dramatically as I have progressed in my thinking and scope so that the project may be achievable within my intended time frame. This will include a showing in the Spring of 2017, and a full written paper for submission to Proquest. For the moment, I am focused upon the project and preparation of my proposal and presentation.

Project & Content

The content and general ideas in my Thesis project such as the use of physical interfaces, projection mapping, and and group interaction have remained largely the same, but I have removed the ideas of wrapping the project within the ideas of a hero journey, or Monomyth.

As I have learned more about what will be needed for the technical details of this project, I am leaning towards some technologies that I had not previously anticipated. In particular, I am almost certain that a game engine such as Unity or Unreal Engine 4  will be needed in order to accommodate the use of lighting as participants move through the physical environment. This will mean that a mock cave environment will need to be created in a 3D asset development program such as Maya. However, as the projection mapping will work best with larger polys, the work required, texturing and image mapping will be within the realm of my knowledge. I can also call upon my Thesis chief for some technical assistance, should I run into issues.

The other major discovery is that I will need to have some motion tracking of participants as they move through the exhibit. Luckily I discovered a multi-person tracking program created by Kyle Hounslow. It is written using Open CV and C++. Kyle’s profile says that he is available for help and assistance if necessary, and I personally know plenty of programmers from my job that have told me that they can lend some programming assistance.

Seeking Input From Experts

I recently reached out to several people for assistance with asset creation including Dr. Jean Clottes, a world renowned expert on Upper Paleolithic Cave Art. (Hey, why not try to get the best?) I explained my project and asked Dr. Clottes for assistance with gaining access to particular 3D cave mappings, and photographic assets for use in the project. Dr. Clottes book What is Paleolithic Art was recently translated from French and published earlier this year.

I also reached out to Genevieve von Petzinger, the author of the wonderful new book The First Signs: Unlocking the Mysteries of the World’s Oldest SymbolsMrs. von Petzinger and her husband (a photographer) visited an astonishing number of caves throughout Spain, Germany, France, and Italy and documented signs and symbols that have been so often overlooked in favor of parietal art. For a more academic read, you can check out her Masters Thesis: Making the Abstract Concrete: The Place of Geometric Signs in French Upper Paleolithic Parietal Art.

I also reached out to a network of European museums, cave management agencies, researchers, and visitor centers called Ice Age Europe. I explained my project and asked them if they would be willing to work with me on it, and I would gladly provide them with my source files for the exhibit. They responded and expressed interest in the project! As it turns out, they have a number of portable exhibits that they loan out to members, so this would likely make a nice addition to their current offerings.

Nose-To-The-Grindstone Practical Stuff

There are several tasks that I now have to undertake to move this project forward including (but not limited to):

  • Deciding on two additional Thesis advisors. One must be from my department of Visual Communication Design, and one must be from outside my department – presumably one that with background and knowledge that can advise on technical and/or content issues.
  •  Figuring out portability, stability, and a stable interactive surface for the projection mappings.
  • Learning about Unity & Unreal Engine for the gamification environment…. and how the hell it’s all going to come together.

OK – that’s all for now. It’s Sunday and I need to get back to research and working on my proposal.

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