Krueger is on the panel, Virtual Reality as Healing Art.









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Liberating the Whole Artist


Myron Krueger, like Andy van Dam, has spent about 30 years of his life working on how computers and humans can interact and agrees that people should use more than a mouse and keyboard to do it. "Interactivity should involve your whole body," Krueger says. "I'm trying to reconnect the brain to the body, so if you're not using your body, then you're not using your brain."

In developing applications, Krueger wanted "to create an art medium where a visitor becomes the artist." But "I knew that interactivity would be primary and the art secondary." His most important contention, then, has been that the computer "would have to know about what your body was doing," he says, and "only in the last couple years has SIGGRAPH begun to notice that argument."

In 1970, modeled after a light display developed by a group that included Dan Sandin, Krueger had created a room with 1000 floor switches connected through a computer to a Moog synthesizer. A person would unleash sounds with each step, but the computer also tracked the steps so that if a person kept walking in one direction, for example, he heard the same note. As participants learned how it worked, they'd "go running, and jumping and rolling on the floor with instantaneous exhilaration," he says.

But Krueger also wanted a display that participants could see, like real-life surroundings, with the flexibility to incorporate computer graphics. So he aimed a video camera at the computer screen and projected it onto a gallery wall. At first, he let the viewer's footsteps become an active cursor on the virtual wall. Soon he added symbols like squares, and later small creatures, that he controlled on the computer while watching the gallery action on a monitor. This allowed him to respond to what the participant did in real time.

"I was looking for what people's instincts were," Krueger says, such as batting at the symbol or drawing on the screen with their own hands. Later he used the video camera to translate people's silhouettes onto the screen, so that "people thought of their image as an extension of their identity, and expected their body to do something on the screen."

Tiny Dancer in My Hand, a live telecommunications performance in VIDEOPLACE.

At SIGGRAPH 85, Krueger's VIDEOPLACE incorporated participant silhouettes with color projections using 14 specialized computers controlled by a central one. Each computer served a different function so that the participant could draw on the screen, for example, with instantaneous response, rather than getting bogged down by a network. No interactive system should be slow, Krueger says, because it's not compatible with the idea of intelligence.

Since then, Krueger has expanded his work to include the VIDEODESK, a 3D desktop where two people in different places can look at a document and use their virtual hands to literally point things out and change them, which he expects "will speed up the existing GUI interface" in just a few years.

In conjunction with United Cerebral Palsy of Long Island, he also uses his work for physical therapy, which can be especially challenging for adults. By designing what the program can do around patients' needs, their exercises can be more interesting and motivating. The tedious, repetitive movements become expressive gestures the patients can see, like painting on a canvas. Within minutes of using the system, patients are "offering to do movements that the people who worked with them every day didn't know they could do," Krueger says.

The healing art of Myron Krueger's VIDEOPLACE."

Up until now, our cultures have tended to recognize and need only a few artists, he says, but now we're recognizing that everyone's an artist.

Modeling | Rendering | Animation | Interaction | Virtual Reality | Synthetic Actors