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, was in the cafe next to Art Center Nabi. 60 Cameras were placed in this space, all in a different location and pointing in different directions. For each of these physical cameras the precise location and orientation was recorded, meaning we know exactly where each camera is in relation to the others.
The second space, the virtual one, is in the main exhibition space of Nabi and took the form of a VR headset and projection. In the VR space the layout of the cameras is recreated using floating images. Each of these images is placed in such a way that it mimics the position and direction of one of the physical cameras and displays a live video stream. So by putting on the headset and looking around in VR you get to see what the cameras in the other space are filming at that very moment. By walking around in the VR space you get access to the space from different angles and positions.
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 AR 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 scene as if it was a 3D space.