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W.O.M.B. (Way of Mother Breathing or Way of Making Bubbles)

Immersive Virtual Reality Installation

W.O.M.B. is a new way to interact with immersive virtual reality (IVR), in which the “user’s” breath and movement create the size, space and shape of his immersive world. W.O.M.B. is open, visceral and responsive as opposed to a typically closed, scripted and plotted environment.

Here is a place to quietly relax and explore the possibilities of one’s own body and intuition. W.O.M.B. trained to improve health by using the signals from the own body. W.O.M.B. offers new possibilities for audience interaction with the medium of IVR, as the piece relies only on the user’s body for information and navigation. By creating at one’s own pace a personal visual and sound space, the user is in touch with, and in deep connection to, the inner self.

This immersive world, a universe, is composed of soft organic forms like bubbles and clouds, with colors, tones and sounds that allow for very creative, personal and spontaneous expression. By using voice or breath, the user creates color and sound bubbles and then interacts with them through gaze and gestures. Activating and selecting them. There is no use of WAND and there are NO BUTTONS to press.

An organically-shaped “mother membrane” floating in infinite space responds to body movement, coming to you and hovering around you, enclosing you almost like a womb, inside of which seven color-worlds float and pulsate. You can hear and see your own heart beat, it´s like your own body.You can choose to enter into any one of these specific color-worlds by gazing at it, in this way you activate your entrance.

Once inside, you can create floating, colored bubbles by breathing into a microphone. Varying the amplitude of the sound will cause different sized and colored bubbles to be emitted into the environment. You are able to locate them, where you want. Each bubble size has a specific sound tone associated with it. These “bubbles” can then be manipulated with arm gestures so that their position, size and color change.

We use a tracking sensor at the wrists of the user for the measurement of the gestures. The gaze is also measure with the tracking sensor at the shutterglasses. If a user changes the shape or size of a bubble, it will cause a change in its color and sound tone. He uses his gaze to activate the object he wants to change.

The user learns to focus her attention, her breath and her body while finding out her own inner rhythm inside the environment. He is able to move the environment through his body movements. If he goes forwards out of the center of the immersive environment (CAVE), he is going to go also forwards in the environment. If he wants to turn the world around, he is going to do it with his arms, turning, and moving them. The center of the immersive environment (CAVE) is like a neutral place.

The music is highly individual – a special concept of sounds. It offers new possibilities for the imagination and memory of the user. It makes a highly sensual impression on us. There are 49 different possible tones in the piece which can be placed in the space by the user, so he can expressly indicate the value of the space he wants to create.

Theoretically, and through our experience with users, the longer one stays “inside” a given color-world, the more color- and sound-specific benefit one receives by slowly creating an increasingly rich visual and acoustic space within which you move and float around using your body. Inside W.O.M.B. you are allowed to let your guard down, to relax and quietly get in touch with your body and your emotions by moving in slow, soothing rhythms. It allows one to remember and experience the sense of child-like wonder and awe at both the self and the world. On the other side it’s a very inspirational environment which orientated you forwards in the future.

The main goal of W.O.M.B. is to create a positive change in the person who experiences this environment by offering a responsive color and sound space in which to feel and reflect. It is a conversation between an individual and IVR and offers a new “human-centered” interface that is intuitive and easy to use and that is designed for everyone. We are attending to implement other biofeedback parameters in W.O.M.B., like puls and other body signals to help you to have more information of your body conditions, and to contribute to change them for a positive well being.

This world can also be shared, or networked, to establish a connection with other people in different parts of the world as an experimental space for exchanging the different worlds. We use IVR here as a means for conversing with people and not just as an end in itself.

The technological goal of the project is rapid and intuitive interaction with the virtual environment. The interaction of this piece is based on the Ygdrasil programming language and C++. The piece was developed in a four-sided CAVE. The user tracking and the sensors for the head and the arms utilize the Flock of Birds system. The sound system is based on the Bergen Sound Library and can provide up to 4-channel directional sound.

These user-centered interface elements are humanistic because of the direct relationship between the sensitive, intuitive interface and the user and represent a significant design advance in immersive VR.

Stuttgart/Chicago/New York July 2004

Constantin Boytscheff, Stuttgart/Chicago
Alex Hill, Chicago
Marilu Kanacri Sfeir, Stuttgart/Chicago

W.O.M.B. Video mp4 here from Boytscheff/Kanacri,Deutschland

W.O.M.B. Video mp4 here from Hill, USA