The Future of Art is VR

WHAT IS NEXT FOR VIRTUAL REALITY?

the Future of Art is VR 
The brand new PlayStation Virtual Reality headset has been released, and it is already on my Christmas Wish List, although I expect it not to be sitting under the tree at Christmas! At £349 it is not exactly a stocking-filler priced gift. Is it worth it? You bet. Every penny.

I had the good fortune of trying out earlier incarnations of Sony’s Project Morpheus a long-time ago, and I have given the HTC Vive and Facebook’s Oculus Rift a try too, both produce outstanding results, but at twice the price and needing so much more power in the form of a top-end PC to function, it is Sony’s offering that has me the most excited.

Sony have been developing video games systems for years, and at one time even partnering up with Nintendo to release something similar to Sony’s original PlayStation, alas the contract was never signed and the rest as they say is history.

But is it games that will become the focal point of the new headsets or will we start to see other uses for this incredible technology?

The possibilities that VR brings are hugely significant and not just to get a 360 degree view of candy being crushed. VR will undoubtedly become increasingly used in the next five years and beyond for a multitude of purposes beyond gaming.

At the moment people might be more reluctant to buy-in to the new range of devices, and that is as a result of so many early-adopters being burned with promises of the next big thing for many years, and where most of those next big things fizzled out before anyone else even knew they were available. I am thinking Twitters Vine platform, Google Glass, Blackberry Playbook, Hoverboards that never hovered, Amazons Fire Phone with a 3D display, Nokia’s N-Gage video gaming system, MSN Smart (not very) Watches in 2004, Microsoft Zune, The Motorola Rokr E1 also not so smartphone, Twitter Peek (truly awful and way overpriced), oh the list goes on.

VR is different, the concept seems like it has been around forever and Analyst firm Super Data has predicted that we’ll spend $5.1bn on VR hardware and software in 2016. That doesn’t seem like the money spent only by early adopters, no, that kind of money is made up from more than just those eager to get their hands on the latest technology.

Even Google joined in producing a cardboard headset that you can use with your mobile phone, but compared to the big three from Sony, HTC, and Oculus, the results are like looking for the bottom of a muddy lake in howling winds and torrential rain.

There is no doubt particularly with Sony’s VR headset that initially it will be used for gaming. Many of the big developers signed up to produce VR games long ago, and already there are some stunning examples of what can be achieved using VR for gaming on the market.

Where VR will go in the next few years is really where my interest sits. Education and training, and reproducing environments, and it could also be how we start to watch and immerse ourselves in film. 

Placing the viewer front and centre, and everywhere in between will provide a much more personal and engaging viewing experience, and its use to televise sport would mean that you are placed right in the centre of the arena. Better than the best seats in the house.

There is significant potential to utilise VR in education, and with parents expected to stump up huge swathes of cash every year to send their children on field trips, the use of VR during projects could really help children to become familiar with their surroundings before they travel, or indeed could be used instead of going on a field trip.
Whilst going to a physical place is always going to be a better experience than you could ever hope to get from VR, this could at least take some pressure off struggling parents who have to fund the trips for all of their school aged children.

Those who have disabilities will also benefit, imagine being able to take in a tour of a city without the challenges of accessibility. For some, taking a tour of for example a city like London and to do so independently might be a dream, it is entirely possible with VR.

VIRTUAL reality the Future  

I have so many friends on Facebook and they live in so many interesting places around the world, I would love to visit them all, but the reality is that doing so would take some time, and I would find it really difficult to be able to take a trip wherever and whenever due to the cost.

Imagine that I could take you on a virtual tour of Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, or take you on a tour of London when I work away from home. I go back to the hotel and suddenly I find myself having a stroll through your local town or city, or for a tour of the Grand Canyon.

VR makes this possible, and the technology is already there for the most part. A 360 degree camera, a good Wi-Fi connection and two VR headsets, one in the USA and one in London or wherever, and away you go sharing each other's surroundings. 

Let’s take a service such as Facebook Live, imagine that at 7pm we would arrange to be on Facebook, and we streamed the event. You would see everything from every angle, suddenly the world just became really tiny. With transatlantic travel costs this technology has the potential to Not only make the world even smaller but will keep everyone connected. 

VIRTUAL MUSEUMS

The British Museum are one of many institutions that have already started to take VR seriously, transporting visitors back to the bronze-age. An Irish start-up VR Education have produced an app based on the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, and David Attenborough’s special VR exhibit at London’s Natural History Museum looks like it will lead to more exciting projects, but this is only the tip of the iceberg compared to other things that Virtual Reality is capable of.

The New York Times app has already featured films about child refugees and candlelit vigils after the attacks happened in Paris, and there have been VR documentaries that focussed on the aftermath of the tragedy inflicted by the Nepal earthquake.

These are tremendously powerful uses of VR, would you rather sit in front of the TV and watch the news and have a newsreader try to explain everything, or would you rather see first-hand what is really happening in the world?

This in itself could change journalism in the future. Whilst the virtual in Virtual Reality implies that what we are seeing is fantasy, VR has already proven itself to be capable of immersing us in the absolute reality of an area. This will give journalists the ability to evoke change and give people a deeper understanding of what is happening, and ultimately it could change the rules of journalism completely. Suddenly the reader of news is no longer a reader, nor are they just a viewer, they become a participant. This is a new dawn of immersive news and I predict in the next decade we will hear more and more about immersive news. It is an obvious next step. 

Perhaps one of the biggest issues facing VR at the moment is our own ability to cope with it. When I first put on the original Project Morpheus headset, for a while I was disorientated, when I finished I felt some motion sickness that I have never experienced before.

I am pleased to say that my turn with the new models has not once made me feel queasy, nor uneasy at all, but there are some clear rules that you need to follow. The manufacturers don’t recommend the devices for use with younger children, and other manufacturers are urging adults to take frequent breaks and to not operate machinery or drive a car or even ride a bike if the user has any symptoms after using the headset.

Some are concerned of the effects that might be left behind, if gruesome content was suddenly so gruesome that it caused irreversible psychological effects, and possible effects of isolation.

Whilst it is a phenomenal platform that can increase social engagement, for the most part you are viewing it alone. But is this really that much different from today where many people are isolated from each other even though they are sitting within touching distance of another person?we often hear accounts of people sitting next to each other and connecting together through their mobile phone. Perhaps VR is just a natural progression of this, and for all of VRs benefits and the excitement it can bring, it’s important that any users who take up the wearing of VR headsets, make sure that they engage with other humans face to face. We have been told of the risks, yet we do this all of the time with our mobiles.

There are a lot of companies and organisations making promises that their VR systems will be the way forward. Personally I think only two VR efforts will be worthy of considering initially, and I also think that those two in time might even converge in to a single format, much as VHS and Betamax did, eventually becoming the DVD and then the Blu-ray.

Sony’s VR headset will be the device that will bring more people in to the VR camp than any other. It only needs a PlayStation 4 to start working (along with a PlayStation Camera and Move Motion Controllers for the full experience), whereas the Oculus relies on having a very powerful PC at the back-end. The Oculus is at least twice the price of Sony’s effort, and whilst the difference in quality of the Oculus display is superior to Sony’s effort, it’s not a couple of thousand dollars better. That’s essentially the cost of the platform and the high-end PC you need to make it actually work.

In the future though I do believe that there will be a convergence of formats, and we will start to see more mobile offerings. People do not carry high-end PC’s and PlayStation 4’s around with them, for now the offering is fairly static. You need to be in a room with the devices connected. The existing cardboard headsets available for as little as $10 just do not do the format justice, as I said earlier, it is like looking for the bottom of a murky pond in comparison to the high definition experience of either the HTC, Samsung Gear, Sony, Microsoft’s HoloLens, or Oculus offerings.

VIRTUAL reality art museum tours 

Those cardboard headsets may be the springboard that people will use to try out the concept, but in the long run, truly mobile versions which are lighter and smaller will need to be developed if they are to become as mainstream as any other mobile technology.

But what else will VR be used for in the future? Already we are seeing the use of VR in medicine and surgery with surgeons performing complex operations on patients thousands of miles away using a combination of robotics and VR. I am sure that the future of VR in the medical industry will be flourishing with advances in medical science. The ability to consult a surgeon and for the surgeon to be anywhere in the world and be able to see exactly what is going on will no doubt happen sooner than we know.

In real estate the potential is enormous.  Imagine taking a tour around a brand new house in another country and being able to see and get a feel for the house, and for that house to look just as it would in real-life. You could do this on a Tuesday evening at a time that suits you, and you don’t have to travel anywhere other than your sofa to choose your new home.

Specialist workers would pick up a headset and carry out complex work remotely, this in itself is probably the next iteration of the overseas call centre. Where once a call centre in New Delhi was filled with people manning the phones, with VR they all wear headsets and connect directly to a device to repair it, or guide you through the process of repairing whatever technology has gone wrong. They will be VR centres, so we will see the development of a whole new service industry.

Whilst large-scale mainstream adoption might be years away, it’s probably not too many years away. There will be those who remind us that a little more than twenty-or-so years ago, the Palm Pilot was the future of keeping on top of our lives. Then the smartphone era really took off and the entire eco-system of the Palm Pilot became incorporated in to a single app, and not even an app that is the ultimate function of the smartphone, it is an add-on, an afterthought. Twenty or so years ago this functionality on its own would have set you back between $299 and $399. For around the same price today, you can buy an Apple Watch. Smaller, way more powerful, and much more useful than the Palm Pilot ever was.

I believe though that the uptake of VR won’t take anywhere as near as long as it has been since the Palm Pilot was introduced. I think we will see long-term strategies starting to mean five or maybe as much as ten-years, but I do not think it will be this long until VR is suddenly as essential as the smartphone.

WHAT REALLY EXCITES ME

I have already written about the Natural History Museum and other institutions, but what I am most excited about is how VR will change the future of not only museums, but in the way that we view and see art.

Museums struggle with funding and unless the economic situation ever goes back to the way it was in say 1995, I expect that the trend of underfunding will continue for a while. Museums are having to adapt.

I also wrote earlier that there is nothing quite like visiting the real location, but a few years ago I was fortunate to go to St. Petersburg in Russia, and it is one of the most beautiful and amazing cities in the world.

Sure there are pockets of St. Petersburg that as an escorted tourist I was unable to see, but what I did see were people who were proud of their Motherland, and a city just as vibrant than others I have visited anywhere around the world.

As an artist I was always going to visit the Hermitage Museum, and as a tourist, I did so on a Saturday afternoon, during the main weeks that Russians and the rest of the world decided to also visit the Hermitage.

It was pure chaos. Never in my life have I experienced so many people trying to view a single painting. Forget the Louvre in Paris, which is like a walk in a deserted town compared to a Saturday afternoon at the Hermitage. Imagine a Sunday morning in St. Peters Square in Rome at the moment the Pope addresses the throngs of pilgrims who have travelled from all over the world to see the Papal Father. Now add in a few more people queuing in the height of summer to see The Mona Lisa, all standing in a vast museum. That is a Saturday afternoon in the Hermitage. Believe me, I have done all three.

If I were to go again, I would only do so to see very specific paintings, and I would choose a day when the crowds were less if that were even possible. That means that I would miss out on some of the most beautiful art, and I would spend almost an entire day viewing a handful of pieces before rushing to the next area which is like an expedition to reach. This museum is huge.

In the three and a half hours that my guided tour lasted, we were shown only a handful of the most popular highlights. I would so dearly love to spend three or maybe four days alone walking around the museum and I know I would still not see everything.

Virtual Reality could easily change this. I would be able to take as long as I wanted in front of each piece of art, walk around at my leisure, take a break whenever I wanted, and come back to it later. This puts people in control. 
If other museums were available too, I could be in Paris in the morning, spend the afternoon in London, and the evening in the United States, or Russia, or Australia or wherever a museum was located.

Access might not be free, perhaps the museums could be downloaded in sections for a small cost, or perhaps I could visit the virtual gift shop at the end and support the development of the VR experience and the museum by buying some souvenirs which would be posted to me.

Not only could that generate revenue for museums, it would provide anyone with access regardless  of where they are based, regardless of their physical ability to get to places, and it might encourage me to book a vacation to the actual place in the future.

Imagine though being able to produce works of art in Virtual Reality. Already artists such as Rachel Rossin, a self-taught programmer who began coding at the age of eight, have embraced the technology to produce some truly stunning results (http://rossin.co/index.php/project/rossin.co)
Imagine creating whole worlds that the viewer could stroll through, each time looking at the world from a different angle.

Jon Rafman brought Virtual Reality closer to art in a hotel room during Art Basel in 2014. Oculus wearing viewers stepped out on to the rooms’ balcony only to find themselves peering back through the glass door, and suddenly watching the room and the balcony they were standing on disintegrate. As elements of the room flew past them many were likening it to a thrill-ride, others likened it to a masterpiece.

It is a totally new direction for art that has the potential to finally help artists entirely immerse the viewer in to the art and provide not just a unique viewing pleasure, but also an experience.

It is a logical next step for digital artists such as myself, I believe that one day we will see something akin to Photoshop for VR and the process of creation will become simpler and cheaper, but boy will it change how digital art is viewed. The question though is can artists truly overcome the biases of the technology, and the profit driven companies who sit behind the development of such technologies in order to create such immersive works.

I think the difference with the latest VR over previous incarnations is that the technology has improved significantly over the past five or six years. There seems to be a real excitement this time, not the excitement of the Nintendo Virtual Boy, a gaming system that only managed to give the player a headache and which died as quickly as it emerged, but a real excitement where people are already taking the technology way beyond gaming and we are seeing the impact that VR is having in industry and medicine.

Previous attempts failed because they were expensive, not very good, and would make you ill after a few seconds of wearing bulky and heavy headsets. The images were blocky at best, the frame rates were too slow, the screens flickered, and they were aimed at niche markets.

With the current generations of VR there is an opportunity to develop a totally new experience and aesthetic, an opportunity to really open up new worlds, add in sound effects whenever you look at a particular part of a 360-degree artwork. There is an opportunity here that I believe the art world has been searching for, for many years. Art that will inevitably include the viewer and immerse them fully, that will allow them to go on an adventure. If we ignore VR, we will be forever looking to create the next chapter of art history, but it is here, or at least it is almost here.

climb Mount Everest using VIRTUAL Reality  

If you have experienced the latest in VR headsets, I would love to hear what you thought. Please do leave a comment or get in touch.

THE ARTISTS EXCHANGE 

This month in the Artists Exchange, my Facebook group where artists promote other artists, we ran a competition for Artist of the Month! Voting was neck and neck at close resulting in a tie breaker, so both artists in the final took home a certificate! 

Both are incredible talents, and you will know Shelley Wallace Ylst from her feature in the Artists Spotlight on this blog. 

I have known Shelley for a while, but I have known of her work for much longer. She is a truly talented water color artist and her works show more than an awareness of the beauty of the everyday in an extraordinary display of talent. Her work is vibrant and fun, and often produces and multidimensional space where a variety of thoughts and ideas coexist.
 
Her works exemplify the mediums expressive potential to produce consistent works. There is never a doubt that the work you are looking at is a Shelley Wallace Ylst creation. I see the work on my timeline and immediately, the colors pop, the lines are consistently drawn, impressively executed and you feel a sense of ease and overwhelming joy when viewing the work. It really is that good.
 
Shelley told me that: “I fell in love with watercolors in high school, studied at the University of Utah and have been painting ever since.  I love the spontaneity and transparency of watercolors and I paint in vivid, rich colors.  My art is always evolving and full of joy”.  
 
I quite often notice when perusing social media that her style is often mimicked, but the color never pops as it does on a work from Shelley, nor do those who attempt her unique style portray anywhere near the same sense of quality, care, and joy. Shelley Wallace Ylst is certainly a name to look out for, and I would advise buying her work immediately. I do not say this lightly at all, I have seen some impressive work in galleries around the world, this is certainly on a par, and then some.
 
You can view Shelley’s work at here    and here: and at Redbubble   and you can follow Shelley 
on Facebook here

The Art Of Joseph Finchum
                                                                                                                                                                                        
Joseph Finchum also known as Ded Jezter tied to become the joint artist of the month, and Ded produces some stunning works. It was Ded's pencil drawing of pumpkins that got him through to the final and it was one of the best pieces of pencil work to appear in the group last month, and I have to say at this point, actually in a long time. 

You can see Ded's work  here and also buy his work here

Describing himself he suggests that he is an artist that paints imaginative landscapes in multiple media and styles, and I don't disagree at all. His work is often bold and striking and he can move effortlessly between mediums. His landscapes show the complexity of his vision and talent and the work produced is both joyful and rich in detail. 

But for me, one of Joseph's works "Spring Cherry Blossom" a wonderful 11 x 14" Ink, Watercolor and Acrylic on 140 lb. hot press watercolor paper is perhaps one of the most engaging and delightful blossom works I have seen recently and is strikingly reminiscent of Japanese masters who produce what are for me, some of the best blossom themed art. Joseph has managed to recreate a Japanese style masterpiece and I would suggest picking it up from his site before it sells. 

Describing the process, Joseph says that this painting was done in multiple stages. First I drew the tree in ink and colored it in with watercolors. I then cut out the shapes of the flowers from cardstock and used a tapping splash of multiple colors of pinks and white to create the many flowers and petals.


Both Joseph and Shelley were awarded a certificate, and the ability to post four self-promotion posts per week (usually restricted to two for us mere mortals) for the next month, so all in all a very exciting competition and one that I just could not decide on if I had to pick a clear winner. 

If you wish to participate in future artist of the month contests all you need to do is join the Artists Exchange Group on Facebook and tag your best work or the work of another artist in the group with the hashtag #TheArtistsExchange 

The next winner will be announced on the 18th December 2016 with votes open via a poll one week before. Given that the group is made up from over 4,000 members who are themselves artists, collectors, and art lovers, The Artists Exchange is a group that every artist should join. 

Occasionally challenges are created for the group, and many artists display work in progress and offer advice. Future plans for the group include setting up local Artist Exchange groups around the world, and a rather special group which will take the very best works and display them to an invite only audience of discerning art collectors. Artists already in the Artists Exchange group who consistently produce great work and who participate within the main group will be selected to submit their best works which will then be curated for very specific art markets. This will allow those discerning collectors to see work that might otherwise be missed, and supports local and independent artists too. 

ABOUT M.A
Mark “M.A” Taylor is a UK based artist who specialises in contemporary, abstract, and digital art and has more than 30-years of experience. His works are available through online stores such as Fine Art America  and at Pixels and at Zazzle  Mark will also soon be producing stunning new designs that will be exclusively available from Design By Humans.

Mark’s work is sold all over the world and also in more than 150 of the largest brick and mortar physical retail art stores in the USA and Canada, such as The Great Frame Up, and Deck the Walls.

Mark had recently announced two new books which will become available over the next twelve-months with one focusing in on becoming a better artist and how to engage with art buyers and collectors. The second of his books will be aimed at a very different market, where Marks interest in conspiracy theories and his more than 20-years of research in this field will provide readers with a fascinating insight in to this often strange world, and will offer readers the opportunity to find out what conspiracies are maybe not quite so much a conspiracy and which of the many features are pure fantasy. Mark already has significant interest in this work from all over the world, in part because of his straight talking and detailed research. 

Mark supports other local and international artists with advice and promotion through this website, and his successful Facebook groups The Artists Exchange, and The Artist Hangout and regularly promotes other artists from around the world. By purchasing Marks artwork you are helping to keep this website maintained and for Mark to continue supporting other artists in such a highly competitive market.

Not only is his work unique, you will also receive a 30-day money back guarantee included with all sales through Fine Art America, Pixels, and Zazzle. His work is available on a wide range of quality print mediums, and other products through his Pixels site. You can also purchase signed prints directly, and he will shortly be working with Deign by Humans and will offer limited edition exclusives from a brand new gallery he will soon be also working with. 

If you wish to enquire about commissions, book, TV, and film artwork, gallery invitations, or would like Mark to attend your event, please do contact him via the contact form at the bottom of this page or email here

Hope everyone has a truly great week, and to all of my U.S friends, Happy Thanksgiving and I wish I was eating the Turkey with you!

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