Aakash Nihalani has been creating some intriguing 3D optical illusions and computer projections that I kind of like. If nothing else, they make me stop for a second and try to figure out what is happening and how he did it. (Usually I can guess pretty well—but I have to think.)
He has quite a few pieces (see his web site), I’ll just mention ‘Overlap’ (2015), which is a 2D drawing of an abstract 3D object projected onto a wall or screen.
The effect is understated; no fireworks, lasers, or splashy effects; but actually reflects significant technical accomplishment. This piece both tracks the patron’s body and has a 3D computer world that responds to the body in a complex-enough-to-be-interesting way.
From the imagery I can’t tell exactly how the patron’s body is tracked, but I’d bet it uses Microsoft Kinnect (everybody is using it). Next year it will be done with some other technology, whatever is available. The important thing is that hand tracking is used in a non-trivial way.
The object is a pleasant surprise: the resting position is fairly boring, and gives little suggestion of what lies beneath. When the patron interacts by ‘touching’ the object it reacts by fleeing, and in the process reveals that this is not a single rigid grid, but rather a group of 3D blocks, held together by some kind of magnetic attraction. And, even more interesting, this is a collective intelligence that avoids being touched but then rushes to reassemble itself.
All the logic of his imagined object is, most likely, expressed in a pretty simple geometric model. I’m sure this can be built with standard video game design systems, as well as CAD systems. The tools are not the point: this is very nicely executed.
For instance, I would note that the pace of the interaction is nicely tuned to be pleasantly responsive, and also portrays a ‘biological’ feeling pattern in its avoidance and reassembly.
I would also say that I like the restraint and simplicity. It would be quite possible to throw in a whole lot of fancy effects (e.g., the blocks could be rendered as polished stone, or wood, or chrome), and the computer world could be much more complex. But that isn’t necessary, and he did a good job to keep it simple.