The SAIC VRLab
The Art and Technology Studies VRLab at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is a unique, cutting-edge facility for teaching, research, and experimentation in the development of artworks in immersive, virtual environments. The lab features a C-Wall immersive display, a stereoscopic projection system based on the CAVE. Built in 2001/2002 in partnership with the UIC Electronic Visualization Lab, the ATS VRLab is one of the first facilities of its kind created specifically within the context of an art school. While virtual reality technologies have historically been far beyond the range of most artists both in cost and technical complexity, the ATS VRLab is a working example of the possibility of making this medium both financially and technically accessible to artists.
Student projects in the lab range from interactive narratives to architectural visualizations to conceptual virtual spaces. Other projects involve the development of new physical interfaces for virtual environments, ranging from custom-made datagloves all the way to contraptions made from yoga balls or butterfly nets. This work draws from a diverse range of fields and historical influences - from painting, sculpture, writing, performance, sound art, installation art, happenings, and more, in addition to immediate connections to architecture, animation, and game studies. In keeping with the School's interdisciplinary philosophy, we think of immersive environments not just as a specific technology but also as a unique and varied hybrid form.