VR-controlled animatronic bust
VRank is an interactive VR (Virtual Reality) installation that experiments with man-machine interaction with the relationship between human and technology. Main components of the installation is an Oculus Rift VR headset and an animatronic bust. The bust is equipped with a binaural (Latin: with both ears) microphone, a loudspeaker and two cameras. The VR headset is extended with a microphone and headphones. When the VR glasses are put on the participant captures the view from the perspective of the bust, the cameras in their arrangement serving as stereoscopic eyes, thus enhancing the immersive character of the experience.
Along with the transmitted acoustic signals from the binaural microphone a natural visual- and hearing impression is created and sets the base for a verbal interaction between the viewer of the bust and the participant. In addition, the headmovements of the participant are tracked and transmitted onto the animatronic bust, so that the bust becomes the surrogate of the participant.
The conceptual starting point goes back to the Mechanical Turk a supposed chess robot from the year 1769. The device conceived by Wolfgang von Kempelen suggested to the observer an autonomous chess robot, in which, however, a human chess player was hidden. As a bust, the animatronic head in a exhibition context is brought to life only by the use of the VR headset through another human, similar to the concept of the Mechanical Turk. The installation suggests a humanoid machine with social intelligence but is infact an immersive out of body experience. The bust becomes the representative / surrogate of the participant and points to the notion of unity between man and machine, body and data, consciousness and identity. The outer shape of the bust, however, is consciously technical, cubistic abstracted to evoke the play with expectations and acceptance in the realm of the human development towards cyborg.