Grant Overview

UNC Asheville Assistant Professor of New Media Victoria Bradbury received a $44,000 Epic MegaGrant from Epic Games for artistic projects tying together Epic’s Unreal Engine – the software used in games like Fortnite – with physical computing using microcontrollers.

Coming on the heels of Blue Boar VR, Bradbury’s virtual reality project using Unreal Engine to bring people back to the 17th century to play roles in the Salem Witch Trials, this grant will fund two new artistic projects. “Unreal is a software platform used to create interactive 3D worlds for desktops, or virtual or augmented reality. What I’ve proposed to do is to interface the software with an Arduino microcontroller – a platform that allows you to attach sensory inputs or outputs to make things happen in the physical world. While the code exists to make physical computing with Unreal possible, there have not been many projects created using this combination of software and hardware,” [Victoria Bradbury, 2020, quoted in UNC Asheville events and news]

Bradbury’s two new grant-funded projects are being developed during 2021. Clara Tracey, a writer and digital artist, and 2020 UNC Asheville New Media graduate, is acting as the Assistant Project Manager and Lead Animator. Other UNCA students and graduates who will contribute to the projects are Thomas Townsend, Jeremy Brothers, David Freund, Keithon Turner and Kayla Hammonds. This research will bring attention to new possibilities for combining physical interactivity with screen-based and virtual reality content created in Unreal. [Excerpted from UNC Asheville events and news]

Interfacing
Unreal

with Physical Computing &
New Media VR Pedagogy
Projects Team Members Project Diary Back to Top

Project 1

Mother Bear Mother Hen

This virtual reality game invites a player to embody the character of a chicken or a bear by donning one of two jackets embedded with soft circuit sensors and LEDs. In the jacket of their choice and through the HTC Vive headset and controllers, a player moves through a story of antagonism and survival between a hen and a bear parent and their chicks and cubs.

Developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the game examines caregiving during a challenging time. Visually, the two cel-shaded levels create a dream-like setting in which a player confronts difficulties and fears that caregivers experience when outside dangers are present; such as impending illness and the need to feed, house, and clothe one’s young.

The bespoke physical computing interface of the project, the bear and chicken jackets, communicates to the game through a Circuit Playground microcontroller. A stomping motion controls the movement mechanic in the game while the HTC Vive controllers allow for picking up game elements and making selections. The jacket costumes have audio and visual outputs in the form of LEDs and reactive auditory responsivity to the gameplay.

Game 2

Project 2

A Rattlin’ Bog - Who Drained Our Swamp?

Looking at the news, it’s saturated with political catch-phrases and slogans, and on both sides of the fence, people feel like their worlds are under attack viscerally, all while the world itself burns due to climate change that nobody will stop. This is the landscape wherein a politician declaring he wanted to drain the swamp was both a rallying call to his supporters, a threat to his detractors, and a two-faced lie to boot.

A Rattlin’ Bog is an installation that seeks to capture the essence of this vitriol, as well as the beauty and prosperity of the swamp itself if we could make it home once more. The experience looks to directly confront and challenge the assertions of the alt-right extremist political machine by reclaiming their misappropriated imagery and mythology, and showing exactly the damage that draining a swamp would cause.

Finally, Dr. Bradbury’s project poses a solution - the ability to flood the swamp once more with your own hands. Using experimental interfaces, the installation invites the viewers to work together in the real world to fill the virtual swamp and return life and song to the now desolate landscape.

Meet the Team

Dr. Victoria Bradbury

Lead Artist
Assistant Professor of
New Media

Clara
Tracy

Project Management
3D Modeling/Animation
Narrative Design

Keithon
Turner

3D Modeling
Animation
Social Media

Thomas
Townsend


project #1 Game
Development

Kayla
Hammonds

Web Development
Social Media

David
Freund

Sound Design
& Composition

Nolan
Scobie

Physical Computing
Blueprint Programming

Sarah
Hendricks

Project #2 Game
Developement

Jeremy
Brothers

Project #2 Game
Developement

IF
Magic

Physical
Computing Platform

Shiasia
Beasley

Project #2 Interactive
Interface Design

Joshua
Lassiter

Project #1
Narration

Project Diary
Project Diary