Memory Cube is sharable memory palace in Virtual Reality(VR), specially design to remember and to be remembered. Memory Cube is the imagined product and social platform in VR space to record and scan one’s identity to remember, and interact it in digital space. The project aims to stimulate discussion about the psychological, social and cultural implication of scanning one’s physical and mental body to exhibit in VR space.
The space in both VR and in one’s mind space creates a certain type of personal engagement without physicality, but at the same time makes us feel the “physicality” based on our experience in the virtual space, which in turn leads us to an imaginative journey beyond dimensional boudaries. With this commonality, how does one’s memory palace reflected in the virtual reality space look like? Can we create architectural grammar for every individual’s subjective memory space in virtual reality? Will it help us clearly remember every stage of our life? And, how do we want to remember ourselves (and to be remembered) in virtual reality? My team members and I explored these very questions using a VR device during a school project to create a speculative narrative about memory palace in virtual reality.
We imagined a conceptual product in future, named Memory Cube, that can scan one’s mind space to transfer into virtual space, which was sharable to friends and the public. The usage of Memory Cube is to record one’s present memory in mind and to share it to discuss and celebrate ordinary experiences, much like how we post events in social media. In the scenario, when the user starts scanning oneself, he or she cannot decide what to scan in their mind. One’s vague conscious and subconscious memory are presented with mnemonic images of ordinary objects that triggers one’s personal experience. Short and long term memory, scale of impression and time perception of certain events, residue and distortion of subjective images are described in virtual space with spatial hierarchy. After the scanning process, users can select which memory to share with the public and which to keep in a private setting, which would be played with scanned mnemonic images based on how they want to remember certain events.
But how can we scan our memory and translate it in VR? Memory Cube suggests the methods of scanning user’s physical sensation, and emotional changes when interacting with one’s mnemonic objects. As a memory scanning process, the user records one’s own voice to tell the story of one’s personal memory, triggered by the mnemonic object.
To demonstrate the scenario, we made a prototype for an imaginary character’s memory palace in VR space that audiences can experience. When wearing the headset and grabbing a gear, the viewer starts to be immersed into the character’s mind space. The viewer is contained in the cube as if he or she is taking the vehicle over to tour one’s own Disneyland. The architecture of the space is described as concentric squares with the different layer of memory objects, which is slightly distorted based on one’s personal experience with humorous hashtags, reminiscence of current social media usage. The viewer follows the mnemonic object from the center to the edge, priming from the short term to long term memory, with voiceover to explain personal allegories compositing one’s intimate memory space.
Experiment 1 VR and AR uses information from the real world to construct the virtual. The site, and everything within it, forms the foundation of the experience. How are VR and AR sensors and cameras, seeing, understanding, inferring, and translating the physical space and context into the virtual?
The project simply starts with scanning tangible objects and local architecture in Pasadena through 3D scan software such as Photogrammetry and ReMake, considering how the virtual space create new reality space that influence our perception connected with physical reality. The output of the photoscan doesn’t have satisfying quality, cannot perfectly scan the target because of lighting, angle and movements – thereby influencing the output of the scanned image. But we get the sense that the aesthetic of distortion and fragmented piece of the image can be used as an architectural metaphor of one’s memory palace.
Experiment 2 We then put the transferred objects into VR space and play with scale, sound, texture and odor to experiment with the psychological connection with memory and the six senses. One exploration we had was creating four identical pillars in a VR setting and putting the different textured pillars at real space in the same position as the VR to create a crash of visuals and touch, which is an experience of unlearning ordinary perception of experiencing a mnemonic object.
Memory Cube reflects three different subjects about current technology: Identity of Digital-Self, Memory Palace in social media and VR as a mnemonic device.
Memory builds one’s identity. In an era where people commonly use social media for documenting and sharing one’s fleeting moment and thought, our identity is influenced by daily rituals that can creates confusion. For example, whether one’s image represented in digital space weighs more than real interaction with people. As another example, we encounter moments when one of our friend’s passes away who is not close enough to meet at least once a year, but we nonetheless have in the past chatted with them through social media on a number of occasions. When the friend’s physical body disappears but their Facebook or Twitter posts still exists, it makes us wonder if we can say the friend still exists as long as we remember them and post notes to their private digital space.
In future iterations, I want to dig deep into how these ideas and questions can be expanded for social experience. For example - How can we possibly connect olfactory experiences in memory palace in VR? And, how much can we share one’s personal space and how long will it remain in social settings?
Class Lab Project 2: Everyday Immersion
Brief Everyday Immersions is a four-week intensive studio using ArtCenter’s Immersive Media Lab. The course assumes a future when, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technologies are more pervasive and culturally accepted, to engage in a critical design dialogue about the impact immersive media will have on our lives. Through speakers, workshops, and investigative assignments, students will explore the layering of the real and the virtual through the expansive VR and AR technological stack. In the course, students will uncover the strange and overlooked details within each layer, developing their research questions, theoretical perspectives, aesthetics, and general practice as a designer. Projects will be engaging, speculative, and provocative, using the performances of everyday life (now in multiple resolutions, places, and bodies), to propose new opportunities within the field of VR/AR, media, and design (avoiding stereotypical AR/VR content).