So, its happening… last week I time travelled and took a walk in turn of the century Luna Park! It was really exciting and gave me a huge boost that this project is really going to be amazing. It’s one thing to see the models of the buildings on a screen, but wearing the VR headset, you’re literally standing in the middle of the scene and have been teleported through time and space to turn of the century Coney Island. It also gave me the vision that what I am creating is actually a time machine. My hope is that as the viewer walks through and explores the virtual world, that they will be able to hit something on the controller to ‘jump’ to the next point in the timeline to see the architecture around them change.
I spent a day last week out in New Jersey visiting my friend Matt Laverty, who worked with me at Funny Garbage, and now runs his own studio Atomic Veggies, which is focused on VR. He works out of a coworking space in the old Bell Labs building, a cavernous space designed by Eero Saarinen. After spending years in disrepair and being abandoned, the whole campus is being revitalized as a 21st century tech hub.
Interior of the Bell Labs Building
I wish I could show you what it was like to really stand there in the middle of Luna Park, but it was truly magical. In the meantime, here’s some of the work on the models as it is unfolding. Matt and I are working on texturing the buildings as well, but right now the models are the main focus. Stay tuned for more soon!
It’s been hard to keep my mouth shut the last two months, but I am finally able to announce that I will be spending the next 3 months as a Resident at TED, working on a project to recreate turn of the 20th century Thompson & Dundy’s Luna Park in VR, with an accompanying TED talk in June.
This is the next step in the evolution of a project that I have been working on on and off for over 20 years, since I first went the NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program in the mid 1990’s. Back then, I created a series of Quicktime VR panoramas of Luna Park, and then a few years ago when 3D printing became widely accessible, I rekindled the project to produce a 3D printed model of the park that was exhibited in the Coney Island Museum. This upcoming phase will be focused on recreating the entirety of the park as a VR experience which will allow viewers to explore the park firsthand. It is my hope to share the models under a Creative Commons licence that encourages others to use virtual Luna Park and encourage its use as a virtual meeting place in the future.
There are several themes I am thinking about in regards to the TED talk I will be doing in June, but the general idea I am working with is about the history and legacy of technology as entertainment, specifically Luna Park’s role in defining everything we do for amusemnt today. Luna Park came out of the golden age of world fairs, a time when attractions in the 1897 World Columbian Exposition were effectively the physical manifestation of a memory palace containing all of man’s culture and knowledge. It was the real world embodiment of everything Google is for us today. The park was not only a showcase for fantastical, otherworldly architecture, it transported the melting pot of American immigrants to exotic locales around the world, even to the moon, anticipating what the future of entertainment would be like. Electricity, phonographs, motion pictures, infant incubators, simulation rides, they all began at Luna Park. I cannot wait to virtually resurrect it and share it with the world!
A screencap of the Luna Park VR prototype, with cell shaded rendering style
Its been a whirlwind ever since I went out to San Francisco for Maker Faire. I meant to post a recap of some of my favorite highlights of the weekend, but have been swamped with Scan-A-Rama and getting ready for this year’s fellowship at Wheaton Arts. This week I’m doing a quick visiting artist stint at the Pilchuck Glass School to get a 3D printing studio up and running. I’ll be teaching a course there next summer about methods of creating 3D printed models for glass casting… more on that later (but I’ll be looking for artistic teaching assistants with expertise in 3D printer building, 3D modeling and glass casting, so give me a shout if you’re interested!).
In the meantime, Maker Faire posted my talk on YouTube. Overall, I’m happy with it. I confess I was called out by a fan for screwing up the Arthur C. Clarke quote, which should read “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.“. Anyway, here’s the talk, and if you get a chance its just one of a playlist of a lot of great pieces, so check them all out!
One of the local Coney Island guys I have known since he was a boy died this week. Carlos had a heart attack just short of celebrating his 40th birthday. He was a hustler at one of those crooked game joints you can never win at, but he was a nice guy underneath it all. I like to think that he got some culturing through seeing the shows at Coney Island USA over the years.
I 3D scanned Carlos last spring so I made a few prints to give to the family for the funeral. His dad is a big tough Hispanic guy with a gold tooth. When I gave him the print he broke down in tears. It was very touching.
I always thought that the 3D portraits would make good funeral stones but this is the first scanning subject I ever had that died. It was an intense experience that reminded me of the power an image like this can have.
The world is all abuzz about sideshows and freak shows this week with the debut of American Horror Story: Freak Show so I thought I’d follow up by posting some images I just came across from my first season in the Coney Island Sideshow. Recognize anyone?
Christine Hell, straight from Hell and positively fire proof!
Ladies, I’ll show you now how I shave my legs!
Christine Hell and Casper. the albino python
A young Todd Robbins
Cutting his teeth on a lightbulb every hour
Michael Wilson, the Illustrated Man
Showing off his Ma Kali backpiece
Getting tattoos is like eating potato chips, you can’t have just one!
Ladies, if your sick of your man’s tongue waggin’ telling you what to do, here’s a sure fire way to do something about it!
Its Hammer Time!
Helon Melon- She’s so big and so fat it takes four men to hug her and a boxcar to lug ‘er!
Helon resting backstage in her Dolly Dimples dress
Yours truly as a young magician!
Dick Zigun and “Pookie” Valerie Haller
The first sword swallower I ever saw- Todd Knight, who later punctured his stomach after a fight with his girlfriend!
The Thunderbolt Rollercoaster
The Parachute Jump
Boardwalk Fortune Teller
The B&B Carousel before it was destroyed by renovations.
Sunset over Coney Island
Man against the arm wrestling machine
The Wonder Wheel
Laurel and Hardy at Spook-a-Rama
Neon Funny Face sign I designed for Coney Island USA and made with Chris Clark