Figureable

Virtual Embodiment

Figureable is an ongoing research project by Jae Perris & Alexandra Barancová and Moniker exploring our relationship to and with our bodies through embodiment in games.

We question the gaming standard of exploitation as the go-to game mechanic that drives most gameplay. To Mario for example, destruction is the virtuous path to saving the princess. Thus, exploitation of the virtual surroundings has been guaranteed only to the player, but not of the player.

We are witnessing this changing with the increase in movement-based input technologies in search of more immersive experiences and higher fidelity embodiment.

More tech-channelled embodiment in video games and virtual environments exposes our bodies to commodification down to our real-time physical movements. In-between these virtual and IRL realities, players’ moving, physical bodies are now becoming objects tracked; made visible for those watching to exploit.

We are interested in the implications of mediating our bodily movements digitally. Movement is intimate; it carries our self-expression and identity. Its digitalisation brings with it a moment of exposure. Datafied, our movements can be tracked and traded.

Learn more about the process at Alex and Jae's project blog

Alexandra presents some of the research and findings from Figureable

Disarmed

Fooling around with the Upper Hand’s latest creation, an ordinary pair of arms finds itself lost in a world filled with its own copies.

The research materialised into a VR called Disarmed. Premiered at IDFA 2021.

"Fooling around with the Upper Hand’s latest creation, an ordinary pair of arms finds itself lost in a world filled with its own copies."

During the experience a voice over will tell a fairytale in four acts about the Upper hand that seduces, directs and manipulates a pair of ordinary arms.

With keyboard-and-mouse or smartphone interfaces, our bodies have stayed invisible to the machine. We expose our intention through the click of a mouse, but the hand grasping the mouse remains concealed. Movement-based input technologies, however, extend tracking from (‘only’) our intended actions towards our intimate self-expression. This is a new form of intrusion into our subject. We find it relevant to address the potential spaces for this bodily exploitation, like VR.

The latest privacy policy binding all users of Oculus VR gear for example, entitles Facebook to collect “information about your environment, physical movements, and dimensions when you use an XR device.”

This includes data about both, the physical environment you are in — “the play area you have defined” — and your movement within that space — “the real- time current position of headset and controllers”. Not to mention that all Oculus Quest users are expected to be logged into (their) Facebook accounts while using the gear. Given that VR is one of the technologies directly implicated in this problem — namely, tracking bodily movement and relaying it to organisations like Facebook — we aim to create an experience in the medium itself that can reveal and raise awareness about these issues.

With Disarmed we present a VR environment in which our audience’s interactions make them aware that their movement is just as much a part of their identity as their face or voice. The experience uses the input of our movements via hand tracking, to reflect on their movement, and to manipulate the audience’s virtual bodies.

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Stills from Disarmed
Promotional Trailer

Come Shave with Me

The first outcome of this research project is comeshave.com. The website proposes an outlet for social grooming in times of distancing.

Sheared silky smooth, maintained mildly pricklyor kept rough and bushy... There are countless ways you might like it. You won't know until you try.

With public events and gatherings cut down around the world, bodily self-care is - let's be honest - not necessarily a top priority. Your arms, armpits, chest, back genitals or legs are (usually) tucked away during video chats and conferences after all.

What part of it is just for others' eyes to see and skins to feel? What do we make of our physical bodies in isolation?

The virtual world often has neither the patience nor the infrastructure to accommodate the wants and needs of our bodies. Come Shave With Me speculates whether the satisfactions enjoyed from bodily grooming could be recreated and shared in virtual spaces.

In the virtual space of Come Shave With Me up until 20 friends can shave collaboratively various ungroomed bodyparts.

Credits

  • Funded by:
    Creatieve Industries Fund NL
    Nederlands Film Fund
    IDFA Doclab
  • Authors
    Alexandra Barancová
    Jae Perris
    Roel Wouters
    Luna Maurer
  • Scenario
    Alexandra Barancová
    Roel Wouters
    Jae Perris
  • Technical Lead
    Jae Perris
  • Assistent Developers
    Grischa Erbe
    Thomas Boland
  • Graphic Identity
    Jolana Sýkorová