Art and VR
Tim: [00:00:00] I'm Tim Panton
Vim: [00:00:04] and I'm Vimla Appadoo,
Tim: [00:00:05] and this is this distributed future podcast. This episode covers quite a lot of ground actually, and it's, it's kind of mostly about perception. So it's about the, the way that. immersive experiences can maybe help people with mental health or how VR plays into that space.
And I must confess that I was slightly out of my depth in, in, in how this kind of all works. I don't. Warm to VR. I don't. And so it's sort of, for me, a lot of it was kind of slightly new territory. So I mean, have you, if you used headsets and that kind of stuff
Vim: [00:00:46] I have, but not since they've become good. so the first time I used a VR headset, I fell over because it just wasn't calibrated correctly, like five or six years.
A long time ago. I was just thinking about whether that was even possible, but yeah, quite a long time ago. but I actually am the opposite. I am really excited about the opportunity of VR, particularly in the world. We find ourselves in now, if we're not able to go to the theater or take part in the arts or different experiences, I'm really excited about what, what the art can give us.
Tim: [00:01:27] Right. I think one of the things that the Bushra said was that she, But actually the design wasn't for it. Wasn't the original kind of heads had set design. Wasn't built for like everybody, by any means, there was kind of built for the people in the lab. And actually if you were smaller or your head was smaller or, you know, then actually it was going to be too heavy on your head.
And so they played with like counterbalances and moving, moving the computing infrastructure into a kind of handbag and this kind of stuff. And then we started talking about. Couture as well, because she's very interested in the way the look, this thing looks from the outside as well as from the inside, which I think is fascinating.
I mean, for me, I totally buy into that because I've always found it quite off putting to look at it from the outside, you know, actually let's make a thing of it. Let's make them like, look. Like a thing, you know, it gives them a give them a definite style of their own. And I thought that was fascinating.
Fascinating idea as well. Well,
Vim: [00:02:26] probably given kind of what Google glass set out to do when it first launched is kind of be wearable. It wanted to be something that you
could just,
just wear without it feeling too techie, I guess.
Tim: [00:02:42] Have I told you my Google glass story? All right. So, so I, I see two things. So I went to the, I was actually at the conference where Google launched it and then a bunch of, yeah, a lot of people were, so it's not that kind of, but it was, it was weird because I genuinely, I saw somebody coming across the, like coming across the, the conference hall and I thought there's something weird about them.
Right. And I hadn't, and it turns out that what triggered that is that if you're wearing glass, your whole body is slightly asymmetrical because you're, you've got this distraction in your. In your right eye and you actually hold yourself differently. And I found, I was, I was sort of slightly surprised about this, but I went and saw a friend of mine who works at Google afterwards and he had them, and I know I've worked with him for quite a while.
So I knew him quite well. He's actually a climber, I'm a rock climber. And so when I met her, you walked up to me wearing glass. And I honestly thought that he pulled a muscle climbing cause he was holding himself just slightly twisted. And I knew him well enough to think that's not his normal gait. Yeah.
And that, that tells me that there was something kind of quite, you had to spend quite a lot of time getting used to it, or there was something wrong with the tech. Yep.
Vim: [00:04:04] That's dehumanizing in a, I mean, that sounds like a strong word, but we are conditioned as animals too. Perceive those asymmetrical nuances about others to know whether they're hurt or injured or something's off, like you say.
And so to condition that out of ourselves, because of technology, technology is quite a big ask.
Tim: [00:04:30] I, and we're thing with me for me was that it seemed totally unnecessary ask as well. And what was bizarre was that nobody had noticed that. So they presumably hadn't been. You know, human factors person on the team or they've been overwritten or I don't know.
It's like, so yeah, that's my, my, my glass story. I'm not,
Vim: [00:04:54] that's been really interesting when it comes to finding a partner as well, because that they are the kinds of things that you
Tim: [00:05:03] might pick up them. Oh, well the symmeter thing. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And the excessive symmetry being like tipping over into, over into uncanny Valley, like this, this kind of thing of this thing about, if you take some beautiful person's picture and you fold it so that they are exact mirror images, rather than not quite, it sort of breaks it apparently.
anyway. Yeah. But, but yeah, no. So, so I think this whole thing with, with I personally find AR, easier to deal with. So you see the real world and then you see fictitious things, super imposed on it. I found that more, More to my taste, but that may be because I used, done that much more recently. And as you say, the technology has changed and I think the thinking has changed in the, in the years since I last tried VR.
so yeah, but yeah, it's an exciting field and one, which I'm not sure. Did you say, I'm not, I wonder if we've got the bandwidth to do it well,
Vim: [00:06:11] now's the time we need it the most. If, if the, if we don't it get out of the coronavirus crisis soon, I feel like we're going to need to be dependent on that kind of technology to.
Get that kind of creative outlook that we don't get at the moment, or to experience things that we're not going to be able to, even if it is feeling on a beach. Sure. The Headspace to get out into nature. If you, if you're not able to.
Tim: [00:06:45] Right. I think one of the things that, that sort of was cropped up in this conversation and obviously you need to listen to it, to get the full failure was, was, was how it isn't just one sense.
And for this to work even quite simple, A haptic feedback or, or other feedback, I mean, complex audio feedback or something else will, will help enforce the mood and, and make the whole thing much more immersive, which appears to be the kind of the goal of particular VR is to kind of, really take you there.
Vim: [00:07:17] Yeah.
Tim: [00:07:24] You know, the more we want to try and do that the kind of the bigger device has to be at the moment. Cause it's kind of going to do your ears and give you some tactile for yeah. And so that the other way of looking, looking at it says, well, Hey, let's welcome this and make it a fashion item, which is another thing we talked quite a lot about.
It's like, know, where's the crossover between tech and fashion and what works and what doesn't.
Vim: [00:07:52] Well, there's some also some really cool stuff happening with VR and accessibility and how, VR could be quite an accessible way for, to open gaming up to people with different needs, which I think they really, really cool because it's not all dependent on mouse movements or, keyboard clicks.
You can use different ways of accessing it. Right,
Tim: [00:08:18] right. I mean, that's, that's, that's one of those sort of interesting kind of side effects of this technology is that because it's so embedded with sensors to, to try and pick up on your head movement and, and whatever else that, but you could then use those sensors for other things.
and, and as you say, as another input source for accessibility reasons, and I think that that is super interesting, although some of the. Some of the things I've seen in that space has been a bit, like, I know somebody who tried to build a virtual keyboard in VR so that it would like when you typed it, you'd be able to type on the virtual keyboard.
And it was pretty, pretty ropey.
Vim: [00:08:59] and unless you designed something like that with lots of users who would use that I think is it's difficult to get right.
Tim: [00:09:07] Yeah, it's just the visual depth thing is, is you're putting a huge amount of effort into the illusion to get it right. And then, then you get let down by the tactile thing, which brings us back to the immersion.
Vim: [00:09:20] Yeah. Yeah. Is that
Tim: [00:09:21] cool? So we're going to kind of line you up for a VR headset and we'll do the next next call in VR then.
Vim: [00:09:29] Absolutely. Yeah, brilliant. Some of the, VR wine tasting we spoke about,
Tim: [00:09:37] I forgotten about that. I have to do a, do a VR or, VR mail or something. I don't know how that works. I don't know about the practicalities of, of eating whilst wearing a headset.
How would you know what your mouth was? I suppose you
Vim: [00:09:52] do? I think you always surely know what your mouth is.
Tim: [00:09:59] Yeah, maybe anyway, I'll, I'll let you listen to the, the podcast and hopefully it'll makes more sense than, than I do.
Bushra: [00:10:12] So my name is Bushra and I'm a creative director and founder of my own creative innovation studio called aptly, Bushra Burge studio. And. I mainly work where the immersive technologies and we, within our teams, we create related haptics and different multisensory stories.
usually, we embedded it in quite sort of high fashion aesthetics as well. So it's part to pure innovation and R and D and part commercial work. I also have been teaching at the Royal college of art this year on inclusive design. And, do you wanna hear about some, some current
Tim: [00:10:55] projects for sure, for sure.
Bushra: [00:10:57] Okay. So currently, I'm working on a mental health VR app, but for ethnic minorities. so we're, we're sort of developing that and we're gonna include some haptics within that too, and probably have it as a sort of multi-device system. and, also working with a group on a very crazy, but very creative, immersive, theatre experience sort of led by another artist.
and yeah,
Tim: [00:11:28] that's it. So let's just try and kind of go back to the basics in terms of, of. VR, these are headsets that people are wearing, or are we kind of going for the lighter weight glasses? How does that typically typically kind of feel to the consumer?
Bushra: [00:11:47] Okay. So, the work I've been developing for, actually the, you know, I, I try and create quite compact pieces, but for since about 2017, it's more on the, in between headset.
So it's not the complete card board lightweights that you just put your phone in. And it's not usually the tethered ones that I do have an experience on tablet headsets as well. I don't know if you know. Much about these devices
Tim: [00:12:15] played with a couple, I mean, just for the context that played with the cardboard thing and yeah, and I actually found it really difficult to use.
Like it didn't didn't, I didn't warm to, you know, the idea of just being able to like fold up the cardboard and drop your phone into it and get a three 3 experience was amazingly attractive. But in practice it never did 3d for me now, whether that's like a failing of mine on my eyesight or what, I just never got the.
Never got the effect and just ended up being irritated. The reverse of that. I tried the magic leaps and that really worked for me now, I think partly because that's AR not VR. So you do see your surroundings. It's just like super imposing unreal things on reality, but that. For me within seconds, I was totally kind of gone.
I totally believed it. so that's, I mean, part of that's about the storytelling, which, you know, we need to talk about, but, but yeah, and so that's my context in kind of what, what I understand in these devices. And I have found that bigger headsets really. I'm mildly claustrophobic and I find the bigger headsets really quite kind of annoying actually.
Bushra: [00:13:24] Okay. I mean, there is an issue with the bigger headsets and actually the last two experiences I've, I've used a bigger headsets, which are, you know, the Oculus quest and, and also this Lenovo Mirage as well. So, as part of, you know, there is an ergonomic issue with these headsets and particularly for women and, you know, People who aren't white male.
Cause we know that all electronic devices are designed for mainly for that demographic. It's no secret. So a current project EU funded project I worked on was to counterbalance that by putting some instance of battery pack. purse kind of hanging off the back that made a difference. We know that it really hurts your nose after awhile.
you know, all these bits and pieces. And actually I think that the ascetic of it, is something, you know, I've played around with, by putting covers on, on the headsets for a few years now, it's just so dehumanizing. So even before you put it on and you look at it, it, it changes, you know, it. It becomes a barrier to presence, unless you're very used to it, unless you're a gamer and you're used to kind of putting utility products on your head and, yeah.
Being connected in that way.
Tim: [00:14:44] I saw it if you remember it, but Google glass, the first time I saw somebody with Google class, I honestly thought that they. That there was something they had had a motor disability because they were, they were slightly lopsided. Like it was like they kind of pulled a muscle or something because the whole, the asymmetry of the glass device kind of carried over into the way that they held themselves.
And I was like, I just suddenly realized that actually this thing was, was going to fail at that point, because, you know, you, you immediately knew that there was something in the sense of something being wrong with this person in, like I said, as a muscle pulled a muscle or something, or, you know, I was just.
I thought, well, this isn't gonna work. And, and, you know, when they've, they've pulled back and changed it and whatever, but, but yeah, I know absolutely the aesthetic is both for the actual user, but also the kind of people in the room. Cause you, you were saying that these are sort of high fashion. When you say high fashion, is that aimed at the, the wearer or.
A third party viewing them in, in a, maybe a social situation or whatever.
Bushra: [00:15:57] Well, they said it's just fashion all over. Is it really aimed at the wearer or who's looking at you? So it's kind of using those concepts. I actually, you know, we want to be. Not rejected from a tribe, even if we want to look different, but, w we're very much aware that particularly where they are or something weird on your, or unusual on your face, but people are gonna look.
and a lot of the pieces that I. Do you create are for demoing in the gallery situation and, you know, waiting in the queue still much of the time as longer for VR experiences than actually actual VR experience. So when, where does, where does it start? It starts when you're watching someone else with the headset on, you know, creating a spectacle.
Tim: [00:16:42] Right, right. So it's a sort of, almost the lead in as part of the experience there. Yeah. Yeah. And, and, and making people feel willing to do it, I suppose, as the other. Yeah,
Bushra: [00:16:55] absolutely. Is, is the, you know, having a, quite a costume or coture aesthetic over a headset. Is that any less distracting than the headset itself?
Usually it's not people actually respond to it a lot better than someone wearing just a headset.
Tim: [00:17:14] Right. Right. I mean, the headset that sets have an aesthetic of their own, it just might not be. Like everybody's aesthetic, even though they'd been designed by somebody it's just like, not for the rest of us, maybe.

Bushra: [00:17:27] well, I guess the other thing is it's, it's an aspect that asthetic the fact that everyone's looking at you and that part of your face anyway, it's a, it's another, it's a canvas for parts of the narrative and the story you're about to experience.
Tim: [00:17:42] Right. So, so we should dig into, to narrative, to storytelling in, in VR, that word immersive quite early on.
And it's sort of, is that the goal, do you always want to be totally immersing people? Is that the sort of the signature thing of VR.
Bushra: [00:18:03] For me. I think the words virtual reality is a misnomer and it's, it's very much a, you know, it's, it's the wrong branding for it. It shouldn't, it's not really about reality.
And. immersivity and presence it's, it is a goal, but I want someone to experience it, but not necessarily, it's just visual and it's audio and even haptic, but really kind of have agency as well within the experience and kind of. That it would affect them, but I guess you would get that from any, any good story or experience.
Tim: [00:18:45] Yeah, well, yes, absolutely. That you're, you have to, you have to at some level either believe it or buy into it for it to work. If, for most stories, I think I saw you mentioning the, the, mental health aspect. And I think that probably the most impressive or although. Maybe most intimidating thing also I seen is, is a mental health, VR device that was designed to do, help people manage post traumatic stress.
And the idea was that you could put them into a stressful situation, but they would know that. It wasn't wholly real, so they could manage their response to whatever it was that, you know, but in a way that was just this side of real. So they knew that they could manage it. And at any time they could just.
Switch it off. I thought it was a really interesting approach. I mean, I've no, I I've seen them metrics on the success of it or I don't, I don't even know if it actually works, but it seemed to me like a really convincing use of, of VR, at least in theory, is, is that the sort of thing. Kind of thing you're doing that, that it managed reality, therefore, for, for mental health or am I in the wrong ballpark?
Bushra: [00:19:59] So you're talking about, sort of exposure therapy used in VR and that's actually had lots of good results, for our particular app where we are looking at it's, it's more of a mindfulness app. But kind of focusing on ethnic minorities because we feel that, you know, that the BAME community, we all hate that word, but it seems to be the one that everyone understands at the moment.
Do you know, the black, Asian minority ethnics. and we want to use, you know, content reference and potential, potentially different languages just because then community has been underserved by, you know, the mental health services in this country, but at the same time, we know they're disproportionately affected.
I say they, I mean, I am one. So,
so we feel like
there's actually many areas within the mental health services, which when we know that it's going to be a massive fallout when we will, when people are. properly less out of COVID as well. It's going to be less harmful lies. Isn't it? in terms of mental health,
Tim: [00:21:06] no, we're all going to let go of that kind of, you know, I'll get through this feeling and what's going to happen afterwards is.
Yeah.
Bushra: [00:21:14] Yeah. so, so for us, we're not looking at PTSD, we're kind of looking at managing mental health for more every day. just to have, just to have a bit more control over every day anxiety. Okay.
Tim: [00:21:32] Can you give me an example of what, what you might just
Bushra: [00:21:37] developing it at the moment, but it's fine. I can talk about it.
instead of called a rumination and it's about taking wisdom from Rumi, the poets in particular, and you know, taking so sort of aesthetics again from a rich cultural heritage of Sufism, but it's not, you know, it's not on Islamic app particularly, but it does very much center around, from as well.
They. I guess the Sufi perspective of mental health, but it's an in a very accessible way. So it's, it's, I guess it's much more of a, a creative narrative than your normal mental health app.
Tim: [00:22:24] And what do you feel that kind of VR uniquely brings to that? Or what do you think that that can do? Because it's in VR that it couldn't do.
If it was a book,
Bushra: [00:22:36] I think partly it's that isn't in the book. Okay. partly you can have a really intimate, immersive experience and you can, you know, you can represent three D represent personal objects and also aspects of that culture and mix it in with. kind of re you know, audio and, have a real atmosphere around it.
And we're, we're going to mix it in with biometrics as well. So you can see how your breathing or your pulse rate affects your journey. You know, I think it's, it's a much more intimate experience,
Tim: [00:23:18] right? No, that's, that's, that's interesting. And I, I think this multi sense or multisensory thing is, is, is really.
Really important to success of, of building that illusion and, and maintaining that illusion that like, you know, if, if you reach out to manipulate this three D object and there's nothing there to touch, then that sort of undermines the illusion and less, it's less somehow you cope with it in the, in the narrative.
you know, that it's a ghost or something under there, but, but so I think hat you, can, you, can you talk about the haptics? What. How does, what sorts of devices are you, are you using for, for tactile feedback and, and, and also, I guess for, for measuring.
Bushra: [00:24:06] Okay. So for tactile feedback, I've, I've played around with many and in my projects from, you know, buzzers to electrical muscle stimulation, to kind of having a garment that even moves around the body.
and. So for this one at what we're going to use, I tend to how much I can give away right now,
Tim: [00:24:26] but Oh yeah, no, don't, don't, don't, don't give away all your secrets, but, but, but I mean, in general, what do people use?
Bushra: [00:24:34] Okay. So that there are, other mental health apps, which do use haptics as well. And, and basically it's usually like little vibrators, You could even have that on, you know, pressure points on you.
For instance, your wrist is a pressure point as well, or you could have it mixed in with, you know, stretch sensors, around your waist to see what your breathing's like and other mental health app does that. and it creates resistance as well. So yes. So some, one of the things that is embedded buzzers, it's used quite a lot in haptics actually.
Tim: [00:25:10] Okay. And, and that's to sort of help you immerse into that space that you kind of feel that you're there as well as seeing that you're there.
Bushra: [00:25:21] It does. It does give you an another layer of immersion for sure. Does it simulate completely touch? No, it doesn't. I don't think, you know, it's very difficult to do that and actually, I don't even think we should try.
but it does give you an other, an other worldliness for sure.
Tim: [00:25:39] Right. I talked to somebody who is looking at, So about learning you can, what surprised me is that you can surprisingly rapidly learn to kind of translate tactile experiences. So they were looking at, gosh, I've forgotten the word. I think it's white finger.
So people who use pneumatic drills and things get this, where they, they lose the tactile sensation in the tips of their fingers. And, and what these people have done is basically you had a very thin glove. That would then pressure sensors in the tips and then you, they translated it into, I can't remember if it was.
Electrical or mechanical, but it's actually halfway up the wrist. You would get a, these pressure points that you would feel what your fingers would have felt if you hadn't, if I'm not making a very clear explanation of this, but there's an interesting idea of like, you know, what they were saying is that very rapidly people learn to associate these, these tactile experiences, halfway up their wrist with what would have, what their fingers were doing.
And it. Very rapidly. It turned into a, they didn't have to consciously think about something they could actually use about which I thought. It was fascinating that that is that, is that something you can kind of effectively reprogram yourself? Do your experiences last long enough for that to happen? Or is it that you're very kind of, cause I think he, in the gallery space, you can't probably kind of have a very long experience.
Bushra: [00:27:08] so, my experiences are up to 10 minutes. I mean, that kind of, I guess muscle memory, retraining, or substituting sensitivity is, is a really interesting area. And actually, training is an area where VR has really taken off. So my gallery experiences, I find that there's still a lot of people who've never tried VR, or they tried.
Cardboard, you know, and didn't really enjoy it. and then kind of gave up on it. So it's kind of all, you know, that, that novelty factor is, is still there. I do, I do find this whole extension of the body through VR or through projecting. You know, like if you, if you were to hold something and it was part of your experience, so it's not necessarily, you have pressure points and a glove for instance, but you actually have an extension of your, of your hand.
You can, that you feel like it's part of your body, this augmenting of the body, you start to, you do start to visualize and you embody. You know, things which aren't supposed to be part of you. And that's, that's a really interesting area. It's like you're morphing into the shape that you need to be in, in VR or, you know, the haptic space.
Tim: [00:28:25] I talked very long time ago now, but maybe nearly two years ago to a guy who was flying these jet packs. And what he was saying was that it was surprisingly quick to learn to fly. and, and, and it's, it's that, that, and it, you know, you, he rapidly saw these, these jets that he had strapped to his arm as extensions of his balance.
And, and, and, you know, the trick was to do place them in a way and, and, and manage them in a way that felt natural. And that, that aided that learning process. it's still fantastically dangerous and noisy, but like interesting that you can learn that. And as you say, it becomes an extension of rapidly becomes an extension of, of yourself, which is, is odd really.
counter-intuitive that it's possible really.
Bushra: [00:29:17] but I've, I feel like it's, we're just going to get more and more of it. Actually. We are going to yeah. Augment the body more. just for utility purposes, if it's not, if it's not training, just to, you know, Just to make life easier and maybe we need it as well for, you know, we know that there's a lot of OCD coming out of COVID.
We know that, there'll be more pandemics coming along just to create that personal space even.
Tim: [00:29:47] So, so you're thinking of VR as a kind of, as a way of managing. The more remote society or, or coping with a remote remote society as well. But if you think or not,
Bushra: [00:30:02] it's like what will be the new norm?
we've definitely become more remote, in, in many aspects and we can. Control who we are. And in that way, through, through the channels where we're not remote, you know, through obviously, you know, the internet. so
VR does give another platform where you're remote that you're, you're much more, you're much more controlled, whether it's in a, a social space or you're having your own space, but you're, you know, you're, you're not seeing a therapist, but you are exploring your mental health anxiety.
Well, do you think, did she just say, I don't know, it doesn't encourage more remoteness or does it encourage us to be the best of who we are when the offer?
Tim: [00:30:51] Well, inevitably, you know, both, we just have to hope one is worth the other, isn't it? I don't know. I think it's all of these. I mean, there's just sort of recurring theme in the, in the podcast is that it's important for the people who are building particularly the first experiences and the things that are going to be.
You know, set the norms. It's important for them to put in. Oh, I sound pompous, but a moral dimension of actually think about what the consequences could be and if they don't, then you can be sure that bad things will happen further down the line. that's just sort of dreadful inevitability about that.
And one of our running themes is, Hey, well, let's think about what this might do or what might this do to society will, how might this turn out well and how might it turn out badly and what do we have to do now to kind of help, steer it, you know,
Bushra: [00:31:42] Well, this is, this is the thing about, kind of the remote society or being in VR and meeting people, but you can switch it off whenever you want.
Or even on the, even on the internet, we know that, you know, the way the algorithms work, it polarizes, everything. there's a real problem with consent and boundaries. And it's really hard to control couldn't can even legally of course, any of these things, obviously that all algorithms are biased because the learning data is, is not, it doesn't represent all society
and then if you, and that's kind of replicated across all. Devices and all digital content, isn't it. So,
Tim: [00:32:28] yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I th I mean that, that's, that's true. Although you do see good practice. I mean, I, I think one of the other kind of roles in this of this. This podcast is to kind of pull out the fact that there is good practice and it is possible to improve people's lives without like, you know, letting the, the, the Pandora now opening Pandora's box or whatever.
And there is, you know, there's a. With care, you can help make sure that upside dominates. I think when it's not always possible.
Bushra: [00:33:02] Yeah. I totally agree. If we do things with care and consideration, maybe that's going to put the, you know, be central to any, any design philosophy. A lot of companies are having to do it anyway, because of, you know, potential legal reasons.
for the pharmaceuticals plate things with red tape. But other than that, then we want to encourage innovation in these areas. I felt within VR over the last few years, it's, you know, it's been great for artists and innovators because it has been a bit of the wild West. You know, you've had, you've got people like magic leap with so much funding, but then you've got kind of the road.
People like myself, who can. you know, I get the teams together and, kind of produce stuff. And then that's has been very exciting without the red tape, but yeah, but then you're, you're kind of, we have to do things with care, for sure.
Tim: [00:33:57] So I wanted to, like, that was something else I wanted to talk about, which is like, what does a, what does a team, what does your practice look like?
How does, like, you know, I multidisciplinary for me, you like how, I suppose there's two aspects. What does the, what does the project look like? And then for you as a, as a multidisciplinary agent, like which hat do you wear on a given day?
Bushra: [00:34:23] I, because I have such an eclectic background, but you know, I find a lot of people do.
and I, and you know, probably like yourself, I don't think kind of, I find less and less people who sort of just do one thing and that's all that they can think about. So multidisciplinary and the hats that I wear, I guess maybe the hats I wear the most is. I just have these kind of marginal sort of Eureka moments of, Oh, I've got an idea.
And it's from, you know, having this sort of electric, eclectic, you know, research resource. But at the same time, usually I'm trying to solve a problem as well. And when you try, when you're trying to solve a problem, you do whatever it takes you, don't kind of go oh. I have to be a scientist to solve this.
You're like, okay, I need to fix this. What, what do I, can I, is there something online that can help me? Is there somebody who can help me? What can I possibly, you know, just do it right myself by working it out. and like, I think I come from. That school of thought. you know what? We only started being one discipline people during the industrial revolution when they had to, you know, people started to become cogs.
Cause that's how the machine. Right. But I don't think we we've been like that throughout history. Have
Tim: [00:35:43] we.
Trajectory is specialization. I mean, you know, you had polymaths, but, but you also had blacksmiths who know people, there are, there are people whose, whose entire lives were to do with building a beautiful chair or, you know, like getting to be absolute experts in a, in a craft typically at that point. But, but so, yeah, I think we have, I mean, historically we've specialized as a.
No, no. it's a species it's kind of what we do, but within a societal context. And I think that's, I think what's maybe changing is that the societal context is less, less part of that mix. Like the blacksmith had a role in it in a village or whatever. whereas I think it's not so clear what the role of, you know, some of the more, Narrow sharp little fields are now in terms of societal context.
I think they're less aware of it, of, of the rest of the community that they're maybe serving. Who knows. how do your, and what's the thinking also about how your teams, so you mentioned like people who can help and projects that you work on. And so, so what does the team look like? do you kind of assemble a group and then go for it or do they come in Willy nilly or how does it like what's the pattern there?
The
Bushra: [00:37:08] I'm part of a number of different networks as sort of e stitchers, one, which is, for electronics, wearables there's, there are a couple of hack spaces, you know, obviously teach and all of the universities and people cross over and they're all quite multidisciplinary.
And then I'm part of, there's this immersive Lab in Brighton. I'm still attached to this, you know, the Tuttle group as well. We used to be based at the center for creative collaboration. so. Just through these different networks and you think every single one of those people is like networks and networks, isn't it?
I can either through Slack or just through conversations, we can come up with ideas or we see calls for grants or people email me, or, you know, or within the group and say, this project is coming up. I have. pitched for things or sort of people come to me and say, Oh, I'm, you know, I'm trying to create this.
So it kind of happens quite organically. And then I sort of rack my brain and the thing, Oh, who could I who's available and who, who could help in this project? the, the VR mindfulness app, I'm actually working with the guy who I worked with 20 years ago as a database. We're both database programmers, for an investment bank.
So we, we got in touch cause we had a crossover of sustainable tech, and started having a chat. So yeah, just kind of any potential network, you know, it's just, it's just a, I think a goldmine really.
Tim: [00:38:43] So do you think that that's the way that. Kind of future projects are going to be developed rather than like having these sort of relatively static teams who are given a task by the management and a sort of, kind of quite top down hierarchy.
Or do you think that these more fluid sort of self assembly teams that come together for a project and then disperse, do you think that's the way forward or do you think that's only kind of relevant or artistic practice? I
Bushra: [00:39:13] think that. You did, you do need a certain amount of flexibility and leanness.
And, you know, we were talking about the pros and cons of, of sort of being able to be spontaneous in terms of ideas, but at the same time, it's probably. You know, the, the, the cons of it is it's hard to manage sometimes and people get, can get pulled into other priorities and other projects as well. We have to do things quite quickly, too.
So what do I think? I think every company now probably has a, like, even the biggest companies probably has some responsive teams. where they, you know, they're trying to, leverage a particular opportunity that comes up, but they might not have the skillset. I mean, I guess this is where the big consultancies come in.
Well,
Tim: [00:40:05] yeah, I was going to say, do you think that those teams are in house or do you think those teams are kind of trusted suppliers?
Bushra: [00:40:13] I used to work quite a lot with supply chains and. Before people would outsource everything and you had we'd have agents, you know, used to work in fashion. And actually what it led to was, you know, the, the, the lowest prices cost.
So which obviously, subcontracting leads to unethical practices. So a lot of big companies were then pulling them back in house and cussing out the middle man, just so they could monitor. You know, ethics as one of the things as, as well as prices to get control. and if you're making a widget, if you're making a million widgets, It's pretty standardized.
If you're trying to innovate, I think you do need to have quite a, you know, a flexible team and bring in random people from time to time, just to, just to, you know, mix up the echo chamber.
Tim: [00:41:10] Right. Right. I read this funny thing, which I was still trying to get my head around that apparently Cisco. Actually kind of when they don't explicitly, but implicitly pay people to go away and do a startup with the assumption that they might buy it back, which is like, I get it.
But on the other hand, you kind of wonder whether that's just an admission of a management failing, but
Bushra: [00:41:38] I do. I think, you know, a lot of people. Probably right now as well. They want a steady job. Not everybody wants to create the next thing or change the world. some people's lives are a lot more balanced than mine probably and work isn't everything. So we should, we should, we should have that choice for people.
Tim: [00:42:01] Right. Right. You, you mentioned fashion. What, what. What do you think, where are we going with that in particularly in terms of kind of tech, what kind of. What's new in, in, in fashion and tech. Are we, are we all gonna, we're wearing, I mean, I saw one of these, COVID masks that also has LEDs in it. So you can like broadcast a message whilst you're wearing it.
is that like that level of thing going to be everywhere or, or am I just like imagining
Bushra: [00:42:28] that. I'm sure it will be everywhere actually. but I think, the real technological advances, are within sustainability, so we're taking, you know, much more sustainable crops and, converting it into different textiles, you know, like banana fabric or pineapple or whatever.
And I find that really interesting. I think. We're moving even closer towards a circular economy. So looking at the whole process, we know that, you know, fashion is one of the most disposable polluting industries in the world and actually there's money in finding. A use for the, you know, the throwaway item and in some cases, some clothes are being developed to be biodegradable.
So they do last just for a few weeks and then they start to disintegrate. you know, there are fabrics, grown from fungi, so they, you know, they go straight back into the, earth. So I think those are the right. When I say tech technology, it's a kind of a different type of technology rather than electronics.
Tim: [00:43:38] Yeah. And actually you mentioned, that's also like, are we, are we kind of at peak electronics? Do you feel like we're heading towards a more kind of electronics and other things like, well, obviously biology, but, but I mean, you know, you mentioned clothes from fungus. I don't think I've ever seen that.
Although I might have done, I don't know. That's I suppose yeasts. Or have always done kind of. Wonderful things for us. So that's really, there's no more than that.
Bushra: [00:44:11] Yeah. Sort of harnessing what we already have though. It's, you know, it takes a lot of R and D to take that kind of thing from the lab to the market, Peak electronics, the.
It's the elements that, you know, I used to make electronics the way that we have to mine. The, you know, the minerals for electronics is, is again, it's very wasteful and toxic. Oh, aye. I try and recycle as much electronics or buy used electronics, you know, from eBay and then. Kind of have it assembled together so they can be their componentize and they can be pulled apart and reused again.
And are we peak electronics. It's a shame that even with the VR headsets, they become obsolete quite quickly. you know, it's, it's part of, it's part of the commercial cycle still. Isn't it obsolete absolution. Oh, I can't even say obsolescence.
Tim: [00:45:12] Yeah. I think, I think with VR, there's the excuses that actually, you know, a lot of these things were built at a point when people didn't really know exactly what they were.
Going to be used for, or what was going to work. And I, and I think there's this sort of phase in, in technologies where it's excusable that you, you want an 18 month product cycle because you know, it's genuinely different. Two years later, the thing is like the form factor is different. Or, you know, we realized that doing like that makes people feel ill or whatever.
Yeah. And, and so you have to update the thing, but, but one hopes that. These things settle into a, you know, the right form factor and the right capabilities to match what it is that people are doing. And then, then at that point, you ought to be able to use a phone for 10 years or longer.
Bushra: [00:46:06] I think with phones way D is a fashion, is that, that is a fashion product.
Isn't it? Nobody wants to show that they've got a 10 year old phone.
Tim: [00:46:20] Yeah, no, that that's an anti fashion statement though, I suppose, but no, I'm an, I, I totally, totally get that, but, well, I mean, they're so expensive. They're kind of like jewelry effectively. If you haven't done any projects with jewelry, by the way.
Bushra: [00:46:35] A long time ago when yeah, I've done a couple of projects with jewelry.
so there was an AR project. So when the AR first came became quite kind of mainstream, I think it was like 2014, Autodesk had an app which anyone could use. Do you remember, did you ever use this play play with us? so I created a broach and. I could kind of overlaid like a fire over it. So it looked like someone was burning.
Yeah. So that was quite,
Tim: [00:47:08] so what was the, so what was the experience there that if somebody looked at you while you were wearing the brooch. Oh, I've got the vision of how this works.
Bushra: [00:47:20] So you had to put the, you know, the phone on it. I think that was kind of playing around with the fact that could a shiny objects I'd embedded is so complicated.
There's an embedded a life drawing into resin and put it into the brooch. And, and I just want to, and I called it, I think memento, Mori, and I, I kind of. Published it on Valentine's day, it's kind of a different sort of Valentine's present piece of jewelry. and you know, you actually had a really bad relationship.
So you were setting fire to the, the piece of jewelry, but through the AR.
Tim: [00:47:58] Okay. Right.
Bushra: [00:48:01] And there was another thing that I was playing around with, whereas. Again, the kind, kind of about memories as well. So this was, so what we did was we got. old shark's teeth put them, and they became the, necklace piece and put NFC tags and you could swipe them, and it would give a message or it would give some kind of happy birthday things.
I was playing around with that back in 2010. So that was a little bit of jewelry. Yeah. Hmm.
Tim: [00:48:36] Interesting. I like the, I mean, the thing about kind of setting fire to memories, I mean, I'm sort of, I know how that, that works. We, but we've not really built. We don't have we're weak on that sort of ritual. I go actually encountered it in the context of burning man, where one of the features is it is the temple where you can, you can take things that you want to kind of resolve and you can leave a little notes in the temple.
And then on the, on the last night of the event, the temple will burn and your note will go with it. And that, you know, that's just sort of supposed to be a, A way of finalizing of something. and, and, and that, I mean, you know, it's essentially, it's a ritual. and we're, we're sort of, I feel like as a society, we're between rituals, we've sort of, a lot of people have given up on religion and, and kind of the formal, those sorts of rituals, but we haven't.
All agreed on new ones. And I think, I think there's something interesting to do there. Right. and it probably led by artists like, you know, to, to, to help us understand what it is that we're, we're looking for there. I think we're missing some, some component, but I'm not the person to tell you what it is.
Bushra: [00:49:57] Yeah. I think there is definitely a sense of. You know, emptiness and a yearning for it, spirituality, but we're not really sure what, where that fits in into mental health and just general every day purpose.
Tim: [00:50:17] Hmm. So looking forward, what do you think you'll be? I mean, I should say that we, we used to ask this question a lot on this podcast and I asked it a couple of months ago kind of when the lockdown first happened.
And I realized that it was a fatuous question because like nobody knows what the future looks like, but, but I'm going to ask anyway, where do you see yourself in five years? What do you think kind of. What new things will have come along from out of your practice that we'll all be using?
Bushra: [00:50:51] I think with the advent of 5g, we will have hopefully a lot more bandwidth and, you know, data movement.
So everything probably will be connected. A lot of things are already, I suspect there'll be more and more, substitutes to co you know, your classic electronics, maybe, you know, we were talking about through biotechnology, I've touched on, on my own practice. I think I would like to use that to create more, kind of, location spanning experiences.
So you, you kind of, you can be together across different locations, but not necessarily in VR. I don't really know how, but I think it would be, you know, more community based community, sort of spirited pieces, but possibly you could buy jewelry or clothing items where you can connect to different items in the house, different people in the neighborhoods, even.
but for it to be much more of a, a conversation, I think the conversation element of connectedness and playfulness, this is one thing I think is really, has been, it's been missing so much as just, yeah, a lot more
Tim: [00:52:12] playfulness. We had a lovely interview, with, Emma Beerman a while back talking about, She, she does these, these play boxes, which are basically a shipping containers that she drops into a community and, and the kids come and play with them with things in them.
And she was talking about the lack of playfulness in, in, in, in life. And you know, how she, she wanted to kind of stop calling things, IOT and start calling it enchanted objects. you know, so, and so I'm totally, I like, I'm already convinced on that one, that that's, although quite how we get there. I don't know.
I mean, I think there's that it's yeah, it's the path that I find that quite often you can see where we should get to, but knowing how we'll get there or how we could help. Get there is, is tricky.
Bushra: [00:53:05] Yeah. I think with, yeah, with, with IOT, everything is very preempted or that's like, you know, that's what the algorithms are for.
It's trying to preempt to create, you know, simulate a conversation or whatever. And that's, it's kind of, it's soulless, isn't it, it's a little bit boring unless it glitches. And then all of a sudden you're like, Oh, that's a bit funny. And it becomes a bit more playful.
Tim: [00:53:28] Yes. Yeah. So that's right. The kind of mistakes are almost the most fun.
Yeah. Which is, you know, provided they're not, they don't have that kind of too terrible a consequence. That's that's that's enjoyable. Have you done any work in the, in the audio space or are you mostly in the visual space?
Bushra: [00:53:48] I'm mostly in the visual and touch space and the audio spaces like a whole new world.
And I do cross over quite a lot with audio people. Actually, I did make, it was a, it was a kind of led garment. I made a couple of led garments as costumes for cyber punk, opera band Intelligentsia. So , because that's where wearables, you know, it was first used through costume on, on, you know, music stages.
but I, I'm not musical in any way myself, but it's an area I would like to explore. I think the audio space,
Tim: [00:54:22] I was thinking about the, the way that you can set a scene, both visually and audio in audio at the same. Moment and the helping the immersiveness there. It's just
Bushra: [00:54:36] absolutely. It's kind of, I bring other people in who they couldn't do it alone.
Okay.
Tim: [00:54:41] You know, it needs doing and there are people to, yeah, no, absolutely. So, how do you kind of feel about, well, it's just the kind of last question on, on the fashion thing. Do you, do you think that will. Right. We're going to have smart garments that kind of know about us. There have
Bushra: [00:55:02] been some smart garments who, you know, have been quite heavily funded, particularly in the sports, industry, w which yeah.
Sort of, you know, measure different biometrics, So peak performance, and it's never, it's not really crossed over and to mainstream though, you know, different football teams. I've used it during training. I worked on a, on a project to do with a G headsets as well and rally car driving. So when you need accurate, Or you need another measurement when you're tracking other things anyway, to improve your life.
It's definitely useful. And you know, and that, again, any biometrics is useful for the, you know, the medical world and the world is getting is getting older. So I can I expect it's going to be more commonplace. You shouldn't have to be medically monitored. In the way we are at the moment, you should be able to, you know, and it's not like you're under surveillance.
It's more, it's literally medically monitored. If you're saying a care home. I mean, can you imagine if the temperature was monitored per person in the care homes right now? And it was just something that people wore it, we would have had like, would have been able to predict cov, like who was suffering from COVID.
Tim: [00:56:32] Well, Apple is starting to go there in terms of the watch, but, but, but that's just sort of. I don't know, I don't wear a watch. So it doesn't, it doesn't, it doesn't work for me. And, so I'm curious to kind of thinking about, about clothing, but I could, I have, I don't think I possessed any smart clothing of any sort.
So, I'm kind of, I've never felt I've seen, never seen anything. I felt I wanted to buy yet, but, but we'll get that no doubt.
Bushra: [00:57:00] yeah,
Tim: [00:57:01] I think that's a, that's a future thing. So. What we do with the podcast is to, well, we put it out, we put it out with any links. So if you've got links that you would like to kind of add to the show notes, do send them over and, you know, maybe maybe links to work that you've done or other things you think would be interesting, or I know, or whatever you think would help set the context and help people go and find.
You know, more out about anything that this conversation has sparked their interest in. that would be great if you could. I appreciate that. And, yeah. And it's been fantastic talking to you, I'd say, I'm sitting here thinking. No, why am I working on dull voice apps? You should be doing something in the VR space, but maybe, maybe that's not my, I'm not my role in life.
Who knows. Anyway, so thanks so much for coming along and it was great talking. It's
Bushra: [00:57:59] lovely to talk to you.
Tim: [00:58:00] Thank you. Okay. Bye.
Bushra: [00:58:02] Bye.