Perceptual Arena is a realtime virtual environment. In the default state completely empty, it creates an audio visual space texture as a coding of the user interaction. The interaction is simply to be in the space, to perceive it, to move around and to grasp the resulting virtual clay, which defines the space and is the material for the further interaction. The space correlates the individual perception and the perceived. The perceivable evolves through perception of it. To intervene in this process transforms the world, but can also push it out of balance and therefore destroy. The world of polygons and sounds is created and constantly changed by the personal views, it only exists through the viewer.

The complexity of the arena world results out of the total interrelation of all it's factors which in the end all depend on the users input data.

The factors are:

  1. the users view onto the space

  2. the users movement in the space

  3. a history of movement and view

  4. a virtual sensor in the field of view which applies history onto the space

  5. the total access with a data glove onto the space through the field of view

  6. the virtual clay which is object and result of all this factors.

(photo: Kai Frike)


Each perception is different and each individual has it's own original view of a world. There is no objective observer, no entire shared view. The perception of the physical existence of things is based on the observer's personal interpretation. The entire view is an infinite multidimensional array of simultaneous worlds of view which are related in time and space to the individual. Each step of change of view means a change of perception and, in consequence, of its interpretation.

In the arena world the individual view point is the center of all interaction. From this center the viewed space becomes affected by the interfaces virtual sensor and glove. To become complex, the environment has to be perceived.


The atom of the virtual clay, the smallest structure particle, is graphically a simple 4-sided polygon. The smallest sound structure particle is a synthesized sound grain. While moving, the viewer spreads polygons and grains. They form more or less dense tracks of his existence into the space. Textures and sizes of polygons and the shaping of the waveforms in the grains depend on the movement. Any further audio visual things evolve out of these paths. If they are out of view they die after a certain life time.


The history collects tracker and glove values over several time windows and calculates a relative analysis of movement, viewing behaviour and glove activity. The statistics of the viewers selections of viewpoints come from his movements and motion speeds. Any contemporary influence becomes historical and it can initialize further unpredictable changes.


To view already existing polygons triggers their structural change. The interface between things in space and personal view is a virtual sensor. It slides over the world with the view and activates the perceived. The virtual sensor is an active space volume (3D-culling) in the field of view and works with relative scales which are complexly interrelated to each other. The scales are fed with parameters of the viewing history. The sensor volume grows and shrinks from the user's 2D-field of view into the 3D-space and becomes more or less intense. How long a structure stays in the field of vision determines its attraction to the sensor. The more radical the attraction is, the more extreme it changes. The maximum sensor size is the entire viewed space.


The more intense the view on a part of the space is, the more energetic the virtual sensor gets in this area and causes the structures to unfold. Activated polygons and sound grains start to move, they organize into clusters, get connected to each other or cell into multiples. The resulting virtual clay textures the space like a not symbolic primary soup of virtual material. Complexity, quantity, dimensions, densities and spread are abstractions of the user activity. These self-created views are infinite, permanently changing and never repeating.


The data glove is also bound to the 2D-field of view and has three culling zones. The active space volume of the glove extends in the z-direction dependent on the history. The data glove grasps the virtual clay and extends it towards the viewpoint. This causes immediate and radical transformations of the structures, but it is also recorded as irregularity.

The more irregularity irritates the glove history, the less balanced the proportion of created and destroyed polygons becomes, finally leading to a total deletion of the world.


Author: Ulrike Gabriel
VR-Interfaces: Robert O'Kane
Sound: Robert O'Kane, Michael Saup
Texture Programming: Akisada Hierokazu
Coordination of Production: Yukiko Shikata, Kaz Abe, Nanase Yukitero

Co-produced 1993 at Canon Artlab, Tokyo
Supported by the Staedelschule, Institut fuer Neue Medien, Frankfurt