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Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second <v ->Hi, I’m Sindhu, I’m a dual-degree student</v> in Art and Information, and I’m a senior. <v ->My name is Conner, I’m percussionist</v> in the music school, and I’m a senior. So, both Conner and I are artists-in-residence at the magnetometer lab here at the Space Research Center, and this project is very interdisciplinary, we’re both from different schools. I’m from Art and Information, he’s from the music school, and we’re working in a space research lab, so we’re outsiders to this program, and it was interesting learning about the researchers’ work and coming at it from a beginner’s perspective.

Skip to 0 minutes and 39 seconds And so this specific project is about the near-earth processes of the geomagnetic storms, so it’s how solar winds interact with geomagnetic fields and how the aurora borealis forms out of that. And that’s really what we’ve depicted here in a more abstracted form. So while we do call this a data visualization, I think it’s also just an ambient viewer experience, too. So it is more abstracted. <v ->My goal with making the music was to try</v> to keep the user immersed as much as possible. Different sections of the model have different musical sections, as well, that correlate to what that part of the model stands for.

Skip to 1 minute and 18 seconds So I think there’s a really important connection between visuals in virtual reality and music, in terms of creating an experience that feels real, because in reality, we have sound all around us all the time, so I think in a virtual system, there needs to be sound that really connects what you’re seeing and what you’re hearing. <v ->I think the full-room VR experience really provides</v> a full-body experience, which you can’t get with just a headset, which is more traditional, so I think having an art piece shown this way really is able to immerse the whole body in ways that traditional static forms of art can’t. <v ->This is my first time working with sound</v> in any virtual system.

Skip to 2 minutes and 3 seconds Something I learned was, the way the system specifically is set up, is the audio comes from a single source within the model, therefore you’re gonna have sounds that overlap with each other. So trying to create sounds where you can, you move from one spot to another and there’s kind of a smooth transition between what you’re hearing, as if you were walking from one room to another. <v ->So this was interesting, because I didn’t actually have</v> to use any VR-specific programs in creating this, so I used Rhino and Cinema 4D, which I was both familiar with.

Skip to 2 minutes and 34 seconds So I just really had to take my finished model and take it to Ted, who works here at the cave, and he was able to just use the software that they have for this, which I think is called Jugular, and then place the model in the cave space. <v ->It’s interesting for me, as a musician,</v> to work with technologists, both technologists on the science end of things, with the people in the actual magnetometer lab, and with Sindhu, just to learn about how different creatives think about the process of making their art, or finding ideas. I really enjoyed exploring that interdisciplinary, I mean research for me, learning how different people think.

Skip to 3 minutes and 13 seconds <v ->Coming into this space, I was definitely intimidated</v> as to how my model would work, but I think really working with Ted, he was really familiar with putting models into this space, and he was able to alter the size and scale to where Conner and I really wanted, so it wasn’t as much as the two of us, doing all of the VR development, but rather working with the technicians in the space and the software already written for the cave, and getting it to work with that.

Skip to 3 minutes and 40 seconds <v ->I’m kind of a visual learner,</v> so I’ve always learned really well from images and pictures, and I think giving somebody an experience, specifically through virtual reality, can kind of move their learning beyond just reading something out of a textbook or reading an article on the internet, or even just seeing a picture online. I think it can create a very memorable experience, so it’s a exciting medium to try to get into, to try to expand what the medium can be used for.

Data visualizations as art

Sometimes the combination of art and technology helps us visualize, understand, or reconsider what we might not be able to see otherwise.

Sindhu Giri and Conner Darling—two student artists-in-residence in a climate and space sciences engineering lab at the University of Michigan—used the power of virtual reality (VR) to create an immersive experience. This experience used data to visualize near-earth geomagnetic storms. You can, quite literally, walk into this piece of art. Their work highlights the incredible opportunities that new technologies offer the arts.

Check out Sindhu’s blog post to find out more about the inspiration and process for creating this visualization.

When thinking about immersive art pieces that you have experienced, can you describe any technological components that were involved in the work? Alternatively, are there ways in which additional technology could have enhanced the artwork? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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