[felt Experience and Empathy Lab, UNSW Sydney|The Visit]

The Visit is an interactive non-linear 6-degree-of-freedom real-time video installation and Virtual Reality experience, developed from an interdisciplinary research project conducted by artists and psychologists working with women living with dementia. Visitors are invited to sit with Viv, a life-sized, realistic, and responsive character whose dialogue is scripted largely from verbatim interviews. The work draws us into a world of perceptual uncertainty, while at the same time confounding stereotypes and confronting fears about dementia. The characterisation has both scientific validity and the qualities of a rich, emotion-driven film narrative. The point of the work is to draw the viewer into the emotional and perceptual world of Viv.

The character’s expression and motion are predominantly scripted, but she also exhibits a level of autonomy and responsiveness. Viv is semi-aware of the presence in her home. The system analyses the viewers’ attention by examining the gaze direction. This allows the character to respond in a more natural way. She makes eye-contact and sometimes smiles if the viewer looks at her. The viewer’s role shifts from a passive observer to an active participant in the story. The narrative supports this notion, the viewer takes up the role of a (imaginary) visitor, represented as a disembodied hallucination. The virtual set, a kitchen and living room, is constructed from a 3D scan of the former home of one of our participants in the study. 

The work aligns with the theme Re|Dis]Connection in two ways: it establishes an emotional  connection to a digital human character and at the same time disconnects the viewer from himself as a dis-embodied entity in the narrative.