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, Sarah Hendricks, David Freund, Keithon Turner, Shiasia Beasley, Kayla Hammonds and Jeremy Brothers. 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]
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 bear and chicken jackets communicate to the game through an Arduino Uno microcontroller. A stomping motion controls the movement mechanic in the game and the jacket costumes allow for visual and auditory responsivity to the gameplay.
Social media and news outlets amplify voices of those who feel that their world is under attack. Political factions are divided on whether to stimulate the economy with economic help to address disparities or to ‘drain the swamp’ with conservative spending and inexperienced celebrities entering politics.
A Rattlin’ Bog is an interactive installation that seeks to capture the essence of an ecosystem in flux. The beauty and prosperity of the swamp is controlled by user input through a bespoke physical computing device that causes the on-screen actors to flourish and engage with one another generously, or to be drained and act stingy and withdrawn.
Interfacing the Unreal Engine and the IF Magic microcontroller, this project invites the viewers to work together in the real world to fill the virtual swamp and return life and an energetic soundscape to a desolate landscape.