Can Virtual Reality (VR) be used to not only visit digital worlds, but explore the physical world as well? This question was the starting point for Esper, a VR installation developed during a Summer Sessions residency at Art Center Nabi in Seoul, supported by V2_ Lab for the Unstable Media in Rotterdam.
The installation is made up out of two connected spaces. The first space, the physical one, is in the cafe next to Art Center Nabi. For the installation 60 cameras were made and placed in this space, all in a different location and pointing in different directions. For each of these cameras their precise location and orientation was recorded. This means the system knows exactly where each camera is in relation to the others.
The second space, the virtual one, is in the exhibition space of Art Center Nabi and took the form of a VR headset and projection. In this virtual space the layout of the cameras in the cafe is recreated using floating image. Each of these images is placed in such a way that it mimics the position and direction of one of the physical cameras. By putting on the headset and looking around in VR you get to see what the camera in the other space sees at that very moment. This means you can see someone come in using the camera at the door, see them order a drink by looking at a cameras that is near the bar, and follow them as they take a seat by walking over to the camera that is hanging above their table.
The installation uses 60 ESP32-CAM wireless IP cameras with a custom mounting and power system, router, PC and a HTC Vive. The PC runs a program made in Unity and the camera locations are recorded using an Android app made with openFrameworks.
The name Esper was taken from the movie Blade Runner, in which a computer by the same name allows the protagonist to scan a regular photograph but move pan and zoom around the photographed scene as if it was a 3D space.