25 September 2020 – Immersive Experiences: Time, Place, and Identity

LASER Virtual: Immersive Experiences: Time, Place, and Identity

Date: Friday 25 September, 3:30pm (NZ Time)

Location: LASER Virtual via Zoom

Presenters: Maree Sheehan, Barbara Bollard, and Gregory Bennett

Laser Chairs: Andrew Denton and Janine Randerson

This discussion is the sixth Auckland LASER talk (Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous), an International platform for informal conversations that bring together artists, designers, scientists, activists and communities. This presentation will focus on two narrative-based projects that engage with cultural and historical identity through immersive media.

Sir Edmund Hillary’s Antarctic Hut: Virtual Reality Experience

Presenters: Barbara Bollard and Gregory Bennett

A virtual reality (VR) experience of Sir Edmund Hillary’s Antarctic hut was developed by a team of Auckland University of Technology (AUT) scientists and designers led by geospatial scientist Professor Barbara Bollard, and artist and designer Gregory Bennett, in partnership with the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust. This immersive VR experience of Hillary’s Hut allows people to explore its five rooms and learn about what life was like on the ice for Hillary and his team as they furthered science and exploration in the world’s most extreme environment. AUT scientists went to Antarctica to collect high quality 3D lidar scans and photogrammetry data of the hut. This data was then transformed by the digital design team into an interactive virtual experience, preserving the hut interior as a 3D photoreal digital snapshot of a valued heritage building, making it accessible to a wider public. This collaboration between AUT scientists, artists and designers explores the possibility of creating ‘authentic’ immersive experiences based on real science and real locations, in order to communicate and preserve compelling narratives around lived historical and scientific sites.

Project Website, and Google, Apple, and Steam links available here:

Audio portraiture: The sound of identity created through immersive and binaural audio environments

Presenter: Maree Sheehan

This project asks how might the multi-dimensionality of wāhine Māori (Māori women) be interpreted through audio-portraiture and how does the utilisation of immersive and binaural technologies provide a sonically rich audio environment to express their identities. This artistic and technological inquiry posits an approach where one might integrate the physically accountable (identity, knowledge, recollection, opinion, and music) and the esoteric. This inquiry suggests that the immersive nature of sound has the potential to activate sensory responses for a listener that reach beyond the parameters of visual. This is because 360 immersive and binaural sound-capture technologies can be orchestrated into artistic works that convey unique experiences of space and time (Boren, 2018). Such work may be designed as a distinctive form of portraiture.

Links to the researcher and projects:




Maree Sheehan (Ngāti Maniapoto-Waikato, Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Ngāti Pākehā) is a practicing sound designer and musician. Recently completing her PhD, a world first research practice into audio portraiture, which culminated in her first solo exhibition Ōtairongo as part of the Auckland International Arts Festival 2020. Maree is a lecturer at Auckland University of Technology in soundculture and sonic practices as well as in applied media.

Gregory Bennett is currently Head of Department for Digital Design and Visual Arts in the School of Art and Design, Auckland University of Technology (AUT). Gregory is an internationally exhibiting digital artist with a background in both digital art practice and film post-production. He is also director of the AUT Motion Capture Lab where he pioneered the first courses in digital motion capture at AUT. His research ranges across a number of disciplines including 3D animation, motion capture, screendance and virtual reality. Recent work has been exhibited at SIGGRAPH Asia, Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin, and the Supernova Digital Animation Festival 2020.

Barbara Bollard is recognised for her work in remote sensing technology, using drones to map habitats and landscapes for conservation planning and integrating social data with environmental and biological information using decision support systems, multivariate statistics and GIS. Barbara has researched alongside the Nykina people, Indigenous to the Fitzroy River Basin in Far Northwestern Australia, where her expertise continues to be a valuable contribution to the development of their case for land ownership and conservation. Over the past two years, Barbara has formed an important partnership with the School of Art and Design, initiating the Sir Edmund Hilary’s and Scott’s Hut, Antarctica, AR projects.

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