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The Cryptic Labyrinth - an experimental immersive theatre

The Cryptic Labyrinth - an experimental immersive theatre

Expertise 2 project - building a multiplayer shared virtual reality experience. (4 mins read)

Introduction

During this one-week expertise project, held at the XR-Lab at Bernburg campus, we created and experienced different multiplayer VR spaces. The lab offers a system (array of cameras connected to the server) that optically tracks all participants in 3D space enabling them to see each other inside the virtual world in real time. Additionally, a hand tracking system (Leap motion attached to Oculus rift) allows the participants to interact with hand gestures inside the virtual space.

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The Cryptic Labyrinth

Everything has a story to tell, if you can read it. Everything holds a hidden meaning and yet that meaning may unfold itself only in the mind of the observer. 'The Cryptic Labyrinth' is an experimental, immersive theatre in which you are the actor and the audience at the same time. The entire space is a huge maze, a connected organism of cryptic messages; puzzles and hints trying to tell a story. How the story unfolds is upto you to act out.

I invite you to experience the theatre yourself at the XR-Lab. Meanwhile, here's a short video recording of the walk-through followed with a detailed explanation.

Labyrinth explained

(Spoilers alert! : If you intend to visit the XR lab and experience the theatre yourself, you may skip this part.)

Like almost any other age old story, this story too is a story of life. The unidirectional passage coming towards the centre and again going away from it and then again the same but in a different part of the passage imitates the ebbs and flows of life. It also gives a feeling of getting lost and regaining sense and again getting lost and so on.

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Inside the Labyrinth, you'll find different objects made up of letters in 3D. These letters when unscrambled reveal a word; the meaning of that scene in the play, so to say. Other than the scrambled letters, the form of the objects is also a hint into what the word might be. 

The different letter-objects you see are as follows
1. KWVGDEN

2. ITVDYONLTI

3. ZIVTISCLOHPIN

4. HVTAOH

5. SSVPRBIIITYN

6. OVIURES

Here's where the plot thickens! The letters by themselves at first make no sense. But when you think about the title „The Cryptic Labyrinth“ and the fact that the path keeps leading towards a huge dark sphere in the centre again and again, should lead you to the 'key' to all the puzzles - after all, in life, almost always, the answer lies within.

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When you peep inside the dark sphere (because in VR you can do that!) you discover it's a hollow sphere with yet another object inside it. And when you unscramble or decode that, you get the word 'LOVE'. (I know it's a little cringeworthy but hey! what's the biggest mystery/puzzle in life? and which is also the answer to a lot of other questions - love!).

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Now when you superimpose the 'key' with the above listed encrypted messages, you get the actual letters which when unscrambled reveal the words/scenes of the play as - KNOWLEDGE, IDENTITY, CITIZENSHIP, HEALTH, RESPONSIBILITY and LEISURE in that order - the story of life; with LOVE at the centre of it, without which nothing makes much sense.

Future possibilities

I intend to turn this into a NFT project where each individual puzzle becomes a collectible NFT. One may buy or solve the puzzle to own it and hence get perks in access to further worlds (more hints). I speculate that this possibility of solving the puzzles to own them shall generate a sense of urgency and scarcity - hence value.

My Process

I started off with trying to understand the affordance of the technology - what unique possibilities does it make possible which wont be possible without this setup. 

These were a few notable points among others -

- abstract entities can be made visible/virtually possible

- imaginary or extremely complex spaces/geometries 

- data layer on top of physical objects 

- real or exploded scale

Based on this, and my interest areas, i then listed different possible areas to explore with some examples. The areas were 

1. Architecture

2. Story telling

3. Performance

4. Exploratory

A detailed account of all the explorations here -

Explorations.pdf PDF Explorations.pdf

Although I was more inclined towards the concept of complex geometries (Kolams in 3D), the class and the professors clearly liked the typography concept more. Initially I made a virtual home with interior having furniture made from type (as seen in the 4th and last page of the above pdf). I was almost done with that concept a day in advance and everyone seemed happy with it. But, it didn't feel like me. I had this nagging feeling that the rectangular walls felt boring (what's the point of VR!?). The evening before the presentation, i changed the concept to what it is now and worked on the last early morning to bring it to completion. Having a backup option ready made it easier to take this risk on the last day.

It was also very inspiring to see other's works and learn from them. Almost everyone explored different aspects of the tech like materials, lights, textures, animation etc.. Special thanks to Mathias and Johannes for helping us learn Blender and Unity from scratch.

I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments section or however you find suitable. Have a good day!

2 Kommentare

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Thanks Asiri :) Glad you liked

Really great ....