Over the past century, technological advances have allowed for the progression of virtual gaming systems, from the GameCube to Xbox Kinect to full-on virtual reality such as the Oculus Rift. Now, Laura Griffee ’17 and Assistant Professor of Art Jackie Brown are uniquely integrating sculpture art into the virtual world.

Griffee and Brown spent the summer creating an online, interactive interface that allows users to view Brown’s sculptures in a completely new way.

“As an artist, the documentation of my work is really critical,” Brown said.
Brown explained that documenting 3D sculptures is more difficult than documenting 2D drawings or paintings, due to the inability to capture the experience of viewing the work from all angles.

Before this summer, Brown was awarded the 2015 Gibbons Fellowship, which gave her the opportunity to work on the project.

The next step was to find a student who could help her. 

After asking around the department, Brown was put in touch with Griffee, whose self-designed major in computer science and visual arts made her the best fit for the project.

“I came into the project knowing nothing,” said Griffee. “I had no idea what I’d be doing and Jackie just said ‘I would love it if you could create a 3D version of my installation work so that people can experience it online.’” 

Though she did not have prior experience with this technology, Griffee did extensive research before beginning the project.

Griffee’s first task was to design a way to transform Brown’s sculpture from real life to a virtual, 3D representation. 

To do this, she took 250 photos of the sculpture from all angles and sent them into a program called Autodesk Memento, which uses algorithms to stitch photos together.

Griffee explained that the project was not easy at first. 

“It was exciting and terrifying at the same time to have such freedom and to really not know anything about the process,” she said.

Once they had a virtual representation, the two proceeded to explore ways in which they could make the representation interactive for the viewer.

“I was really interested in thinking about new ways for people who can’t experience my works first hand to be able to experience the works in different ways virtually that somehow parallels the act of being in a physical space with the work,” said Brown.

Brown and Griffee then met with a member of Information Technology, Kevin Travers, who encouraged them to use a video game software called Unity. 

“There was a little bit of coding involved, so I had to figure out how to get a menu to pop-up so that users could see controls or to have other user friendly things,” said Griffee. 

She explained that once she worked out the small bugs, they achieved the virtual representation they had been striving for using Unity. 

ln the future, Griffee wants to continue exploring the intersection between technology and art. 

“I’m slowly piecing together a path,” said Griffee, “Right now, that path has definitely led me down the 3D rabbit hole, so to speak.” 

Both Griffee and Brown said that they would like to continue the research next summer. 

“We are just scratching the surface of what we can do,” said Brown.