Design in the Procedural Era
Reality is a seamless representation of images, sounds, odors, tactile sensations. This three-dimensional environment we live in, is mediated by the five senses through our own mind and a complex set of experiences, feelings, emotions. We do not simply live reality, we experience reality, and we all have our own decoder, a unique personal factor that makes our perception of reality unique.
Considering just the simple representation of reality, Virtual Reality (VR) is a real time rendering of the environment. We can easily imagine the incredible computing power required to render such a huge amount of information (images, sounds, odors, tactile sensations) at the proper frame rate. Even though time and technological development will surely bring the proper solution to this problem, geometry-based VR will always be the wrong approach: in fact, trying to reproduce (model) the complexity and level of detail of actual reality is simply counterproductive.
Now let us consider the subjective aspect of reality. Actually, emotions are just a reaction to VR but they are not truly embedded in it. A pre-modeled virtual world, no matter how perfect it is, can only produce some reactions (emotions) in the viewer. Therefore, Affective Imaging usually refers to the production of images capable of generating emotions, and it is normally used in marketing (e.g. to positively prepare the buyer) since decades. This kind of virtual imaging is based on modeled geometry, rendering and post-production; the goal is to create an image with a mood.
In order to raise VR to the next level, reaching what we call Affective VR, we must shift from geometry-based VR to code-generated VR.
The Process – In order to shape VR according to emotions three things must happen:
- Sensing of user-generated data streams.
- Emotional status detection.
- Creation and rendering of the virtual environment, programmed according to desired specifications.
With this method, all three phases (sensing, interpreting and rendering) require a different approach: coding.
This different approach will finally allow shifting towards a new type of VR with which we can interact emotionally. Following this method, in fact:
- VR could be shaped according to the observer’s emotions and feelings.
- Virtual environment could be in line or in contrast with such emotions.
- Such an interactive and programmable Affective VR would allow several new and interesting applications: healthcare, entertainment, research, ...
Affective VR does not just mean that emotions are involved: affective refers to the way data are interpreted; using machine learning, big emotional data sets are analyzed and human behavior interpreted.
In order for the process to work effectively, the data streams coming from the user must be compared with an existing emotional database: this will allow recognition of the user's emotional state and subsequent rendering of the environment.