Global Interior Project

Description of Masaki Fujihata's artwork for a Networked Multi-User Virtual Environment, shown at DEAF96.

Global Interior Project

view inside; photo: Jan Sprij


The Global Interior Project is a Networked Multi-User Virtual Environment where people can meet, talk and discover the metaphysics of reality. On one level, it is an experiment in communication media design; looking at first how information is collected, edited and delivered, and then how this content is managed in interface "surfaces." Displays for the Internet are at once frame, interface and content. One obvious success of html browsers is in how they show us new ways to get and deliver information. More importantly however, they show us ways to make new holes in our solid brains.
The Global Interior Project imagines a certain meta-mechanism of electronically networked communication space where people can commute between actual and virtual space.

Hardware System

The Global Interior Project's hardware is configured in a typical VR setup, with an ethernet LAN, 3D graphic workstation, trackball and projector. One remarkable feature of this project however, is how we set up a representation of the virtual space using boxes, each with an iconic sculpture in actual space. Doors on each of the boxes in this matrix open and close according to the whereabouts of those in virtual space. By following the status of these doors we can follow the whereabouts of those in the virtual space. Thus the work has three stages; real space, virtual space and represented virtual space.

Visible System

There are two major installations within this project, the Cubical-Terminal and the Matrix-Cubes. The Cubical-Terminal is a large white box with a window. The user stands outside of this box, looking in through the window to both watch the image of virtual space and navigate through it by manipulating a TrackBall device. It is also equipped with a speaker, microphone, and video camera. Matrix-Cubes is a sculptural map of the virtual space constructed of 18 boxes and placed nearby the Cubical-Terminal. The status of the door of each box shows whether that room is occupied in the virtual space. The designs of the Cubical-Terminal, virtual room interior, and Matrix-Cube are identical; each white, cubic, and with a square window.

Functions of the System

Participants can manipulate their view and move through the virtual space using the TrackBall. They can move between rooms through the windows. Each room has a computer graphic object which identifies it, and which is paralleled by an analogous object in one of the Matrix-Cubes. There are several different reactions possible from clicking on these virtual objects, including sounds being generated and objects being animated. When two or more people are in the same virtual room they can talk with each other, their icons identified by the location of their Cubical-Terminal, and not their personal name. They do not need to abandon their actual reality to enjoy their virtual reality. They can have the best of both worlds. The room entitled The Self, however, is exceptional. Here, the user finds video images of the Matrix-Cubes (taken from the actual objects) installed in this virtual room, just as they are found in the actual room. By clicking on the doors of a given cube, the participant is virtually transported into that room. This image of the Matrix-Cubes is a map for changing one's virtual position through a representation of the real object. At the same time, of course, the participant can always turn around and see the actual Matrix-Cubes with his actual visual organs (his eyes).

Design of the Rooms

There are 18 different rooms constructed as symbols of 18 different categories which reflect the world.

+ right hand, left hand, as a sense of tactility, eye as vision, nose as smell, ear as audition, mouth as language, book as memory, pen as expression, house as living, the self, telephone as a medium, weapon as war, penis as sex, cross as religion, trash as after, material as before, right foot and left foot as a foundation or transformation.

+ All objects in actual space were sculptured by Masaki Fujihata with LEGO blocks. These LEGO blocks can be read as a metaphor for atoms. Each room is a part of the world. To move through these rooms is to know the world. To know the path and to imagine the whole creates a form in the user's thoughts. The form of the Matrix-Cubes is a map of the virtual world. The total form of the map was designed with chromosomal structures in mind. The symbol is a standing human. The human is the world.

Avatar design

When four Cubical-Terminals are installed four different forms are needed for identifying each avatar. Video images of each participant are mapped onto the face of each corresponding avatar. Different avatar designs identify the locations of each Cubical-Terminal, and the video image suggests the actual participant's existence. In the contrast to the cubic design of the virtual room, Cubical-Terminal, and Matrix-Cubes, the design of the avatar is spherical, like an atom or molecule. The avatars, as virtual representations of the participant, are the activators of this virtual world. When the participant moves from one room to another, they leave a footprint on the ledge of the window of the room they've just departed, and smaller foot print on the ledge of the room before that. We are currently designing an artificial avatar now. He will be controlled by an artificial intelligence type computer program.


The window in the Cubical-Terminal is a window to the virtual space. The TrackBall at the edge of this window is used to manipulate the user's view and position. Windows within the virtual space are paths to other rooms. Images are visible through the outermost windows, but user can never go there. They express the existence of complete outsideness.

Important problems in VR

3D Computer Graphics (CG) and Virtual Reality (VR) look similar but are very different. Both are enabled by innovations in digital computer technology, and both are trying to generate different senses of reality. The goal of innovation in CG technology is to generate a "photo realistic reality" for 3D data. Because the conception of "photo realistic reality" comes from the technology of photography -- which provide us very detailed images -- the complexity of details is seen as the key to feeling this reality! The technology of texture mapping was invented for generating this complexity of detail in CG, yet it remains essentially a technology for faking the world. Texture mapping is nothing but a seemingly complex surface on the vertex and polygons, which are nothing more than volumes of ON/OFF switching commands in computer data. The possibilities are limited like the number of spelling variations are limited in every written language. VR also deals in the manipulation of 3D data. This data, however, is not used for generating photo realistic images, but to create a space to interact, and descibe relations between user and object. In VR space, the only way to make the world complex is making link between object, vertex, polygon, or character. The process for describing the world in VR is same as writing a story using text. To design its objects is to define its concept. To combine these objects is to write the world. In this manner, It is nonsense to put the data of a photo-realistic cup, coffee, chair and door into VR space, because these are deeply related with our real body's functions, eating and tactility. VR is not suited for simulating the real world. It is good for manipulating symbolic concepts and ideas in a new way of abstraction. It is a new way of knowing about, of re-recognizing our world. Thinking in VR is fun for me. The differences between fun in VR and fun in the actual world have to do with how we feel the reality, why we are living, and why we think. And for me, the Global Interior Project somehow clarifies this.

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