Monday, 11 November 2013

Week 8: Multimedia and Augmented Reality

Posted by Beryl at 05:01
Eighth post!

Today, I'll be talking about Multimedia and Augmented Reality!

Why am I gushing?
I was neutral when this topic was brought up during class.
I was neutral when the Google Glass video was shown, even critical of its functionality.
However, I was ESTATIC when the video of Hatsune Miku was shown!!!
Why why why? I'll explain later ^^
I. Can't. Breathe!
To switch things up a little, I'll briefly talk about Multimedia and Augmented Reality, before delving into 2 case-studies that feature performers that I LOVE (and relate them to the topic of the day of course).

Let's start!
Can you name each of these multimedia icons?
Multimedia has interactive elements and integrates multiple forms of media, such as text, audio and video, into its content. Multimedia is present in various forms, serving different purposes. One example is a multimedia presentation, which comprises of text, graphics, animations and video clips etc. Another example would be a website, such as this blog, as it is made up of many multimedia features (text, animation, sound etc). These features enhance what otherwise would be one-dimensional and mundane content that people might not bother to pay attention to. They breathe life into our work.

On the other hand, augmented reality is a live view of a physical, real-world environment that enhances one's perception of reality and whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input (sound, graphics etc). It differs from virtual reality, which is a computer-generated environment that is simulated and not as realistic. An example of augmented reality would be holograms, which are 3-D images that are projected and captured on a 2-D surface.

So now we know what multimedia and augmented reality are!
Give yourself a clap!
As mentioned, they can be applied to various areas. One area where we often see them at work is none other than the entertainment industry, which requires their performers to stand out and attract a fan base. In Japan, there are 2 performers that exemplify the use of multimedia and augmented reality (more so than others I daresay), and they are none other than Hatsune Miku (and her fellow vocaloids), as well as Perfume!

Hatsune Miku
Here's a document about Hatsune Miku, a vocaloid! The background of how she and her counterparts came about is so amazing.

Originally a computer-generated animation whose singing is derived from Yamaha's Vocaloid music software program, Hatsune Miku has evolved into a hologram with the help of 3-D tabletop technology. This "hologram table" technology called the fVision is a table that can display a 360 degrees free-standing image. This allows multiple users to view the 3-D image from different angles without needing extra equipment. The imaging equipment that is installed beneath the table leaves the top surface uncluttered. With the aid of programmers, Hatsune Miku and her friends are able to not only come alive, but move convincingly like real people do. Their ability to perform in 3-D gives their fans the opportunity to catch previously 2-D characters performing live and interact with their idols.

This is one of my favourite performances by a vocaloid called Megurine Luka. Did you notice how she is able to 'interact' with her audience? We can see her waving at the audience and signalling for them to clap along to the song. While this might be due to programming, it is a step towards bridging the gap between what's real and what's not.

Thinking about the technology of the fVision, the creator mentioned that it can possibly be applied elsewhere too, such as business presentations or medical consultations. I agree with his idea and find it quite feasible. The convenience and efficiency that the technology provides would enhance our experiences in real life by serving as a useful tool.

Perfume is a Japanese techno-pop group that utilises various cutting-edge technologies in their performances for a surreal experience. These technologies include multimedia and augmented reality! The video below is an example:
Start from 1:32 and get ready to be mind-blown!
The performance starts off with graphics and animations floating in mid-air, leading up to the main event: Perfume! Holograms of the performers appear to put on an exciting performance, accompanied by multimedia elements of sound and laser lights. The greatest part of the performance (4:29 onwards) was when the music was at it's climax and the lights became overpowering to reveal the actual performers performing side by side with their holograms! How cool is that? The sight of the actual performers 'interacting' with their holograms and them 'combining' together as one really got me and the crowd going! This event was definitely enhanced through the use of technology that is rarely seen anywhere else.

As for the video below, I had the opportunity to experience the exact same performance, in hologram! It is an augmented reality program of Perfume that I managed to catch for free when they came to Singapore for their concert last year. We were escorted to a small boxed room that was pitch-black, heightening my anticipation. In a moment, the magic happened. Figures so lifelike appeared out of nowhere and it felt like a mini concert with a multi-sensory performance. I was in awe. This precious experience taught me the true power of augmented reality (as compared to a shopping experience, for example, that might leave only a short-term impression). Please check it out (:

Recently, Perfume had the opportunity to perform at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity:
They put up a spectacular performance with the help of multimedia and augmented reality. Their seemingly plain white attire came alive with the use of technology that allowed interesting patterns to be superimposed onto them. This gives one the impression that the group was acting as canvas for the designs created by an artist, as well as wearing different outfits when technically they were only wearing one each. The performance was also accompanied by multimedia elements such as sound and text and video graphics in the background. From here we can learn how far technology has come in this age, where nothing seems impossible. I myself would not have thought that an experience like this could be realised until recently, when holographs became more prominent.

With all these said, I respect the Japanese for being innovative and incorporating the technologies of multimedia and augmented reality into their culture. Furthermore, I believe that one should be open to new experiences. While their concepts might seem to be foreign to to others, I find it quite refreshing. If there was a chance for me to go to a Hatsune Miku/Perfume concert, there's no doubt that I'd be willing to go! Really, there is no comparison to seeing them live as the atmosphere will definitely be electrifying. Reflecting upon my love for them, I realise one of the key reasons why they appeal to me is  because they are able to effectively and seamlessly utilise multimedia and augmented reality in an unique way which always capture the audience's attention. They stand out from the sea of uniform performers.

I'm getting tingles just thinking about it~ I'm off to reminisce! Signing off!


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