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Blurring the Boundaries of Dimensions

The Museum of Colliding Dimensions is an interactive all-consuming experience of light, sound and movement. No Walls’ Grace Kirk discovered the CreateX festival installation to be one of the most extensive mash ups of technology she has ever experienced.

It was a Thursday lunch time when I knocked loudly on the door to the 110 studio room of the Z9 building at QUT’s Kelvin Grove campus. I was told to knock loudly because the people inside probably wouldn’t hear me. They would be that consumed in their project.

Eventually the door opened, a person’s head poked out into the light, and I was quickly ushered into a large dark space that to me appeared empty.

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As my eyes adjusted I realised there were a number of people spread throughout the space. Someone was walking through the middle of the room, where shafts of light would shoot down to illuminate them, another person was in the corner wearing virtual reality glasses, their eyes roaming around to see what I couldn’t. Everyone else was standing before an intimidating amount of technology, huddling around the brain of the space.

Loud noises and music reverberated through the room. “That sounds great!” someone yelled. My eyes strayed to the giant screen in the back corner where a moving image was on display. Another world where shapes, caves and reflections ruled.

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I’ve only received a taste of what The Museum of Colliding Dimensions will offer and it’s safe to say that everyone from the technologically inept to the coding genius will be impressed with this hybrid trans disciplinary project.

The Concept Behind the Project

Debra Polson is a senior academic at QUT and an independent designer that works on the boundaries of design, science and gaming technology. She is also the team leader behind The Museum of Colliding Dimensions, for which she was briefed to create a trans disciplinary project that could show off the capacity of this space.

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Debra Polson, team leader, Museum of Colliding Dimensions

I was fascinated to hear how this interactive project has been inspired by the philosophies of Plato and Berkeley and the idea that there is a ideal platonic world of which everything else is simply a representation of.

“I imagined that if we ever entered into the platonic world, the intervention would have dramatic consequences. It’s just kind of an idea to look into the perfect form. It can’t look back at you,” says Polson.

To create this interactive and reactive experience Polson and her team are working with a wide variety of technology.

“What I ended up creating was a single virtual world that combined the effects and impacts of projection mapping, sensor tracking, dynamic lighting and sound, virtual reality and multi-touch,” says Polson.

The project beautifully blurs the boundaries between dimensions. It is an interactive all consuming experience of light, sound and movement.

When humans interact with the space, the shapes react quite intensely. The sound layers and layers as more people enter the rift, adding to the drama.

“Once people sort of understand the logic of the system, they’ll actually be able to compose the music by walking around, but also they’ll be changing what’s happening on screen,” says Polson.

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Virtual reality in Museum of Colliding Dimensions.

To me one of the most exciting elements of the project was the virtual world only visible to those wearing the HTC Vive goggles, which I was able to try on. Looking around the virtual world allows the audience to have an entirely different experience, one where you enter the other dimension.

“I think it would be safe to say that this is probably the first time that such an extensive mash up of technology has been put together for one work,” says Polson.

The Team Behind this World

Deb Polson, in the Museum of Colliding Dimensions.

Deb Polson, in the Museum of Colliding Dimensions.

Since May 2016, Polson and four recent QUT graduates have been working on putting together this trans disciplinary project.

“These are people who have graduated only just last year, so we’re giving them a real opportunity to experiment and to collaborate with each other. These guys are really pushing the boundaries of their field,” says Polson.

Wade Taylor – 3D Artist

Wade Taylor, graphic designer, Museum of Colliding Dimensions.

Wade Taylor, graphic designer, Museum of Colliding Dimensions.

As 3D artist, Wade Taylor is responsible for all of the digital art, which is essentially everything on the screen that caught my attention as soon as I walked in the room. Another interactive and visual design graduate, Taylor works in Blender and Unity to build the platonic rift world.

“Wade and I started off by talking a lot about the idea of the shapes and the form. We talked a lot about things we’ve seen in science fiction. We put a lot of inspirational images up on Pinterest, and we kind of developed the aesthetic over time,” says Polson.

They explained how they looked a lot at landscapes, crystal caves, platonic shapes and even the formations of chemicals. The creative processes and insights are visible on the screen as the other world moves in unrivalled details, reflections and shading.

Nathan Corporal – Sound Designer

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Nathan Corporal, sound designer, Museum of Colliding Dimensions.

Nathan Corporal was well equipped to take on the sound design of this project considering his honours project was in virtual reality audio. The sound is a significant part of the interactive installation. It creates the eerie atmosphere of these colliding dimensions.

Corporal explained how there are two parts to this project – inside the virtual reality and the bigger picture of the installation. “This was kind of spooky to me. Usually I do post production on films or games, so doing an interactive sound stage was very fun and challenging,” says Corporal.

Working across the spectrum of audio programs Corporal has created a sound inspired by early 90s trance and science fiction soundtracks.

Ryan Quagliata – Programmer

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Ryan Quagliata, programmer, Museum of Colliding Dimensions.

The programmer of the project, Ryan Quagliata, studied games and interactive entertainment. His job is to fit all of the pieces together.

“I’ve been connecting the lights, the output, the sound and I handle the virtual reality stuff, the projections and the floor tracking,” says Quagliata.

“The first time I walked into a light zone and it turned on, it was so rewarding. It’s great to see a few things that were never meant to work together, but we’ve made work together,” says Quagliata.

Cat Wilkinson – Fabrication

Cat in J Block Fabrication Lab2

Cat Wilkinson is an interactive and visual design graduate who has been in charge of creating the physical objects of the space, including shapes that were 3D printed and large shards, which belong to the other dimension.

“It was a new experience for me because I haven’t really built anything of such a big scale before,” says Wilkinson.

Wilkinson has also been responsible for Glitch, which is an app that will be functioning on the day of CreateX, allowing people to play this augmented reality game that will lead them to the Museum.

“I’m just hoping that people will be inspired to come and try these things out…  because it’s really interesting and there’s a whole lot of new stuff coming out all the time. I think we’re on the cutting edge at the moment,” says Wilkinson.

This installation, even in development stages, has clearly showcased the work of this team of recent graduates and the capacity of the space. The installation was on show on 28 August as part of CreateX, the festival of creativity and technology.

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