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Scott Bakal
Tactile Virtual Reality
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One of the coolest things about being an illustrator is all the new stuff I learn and get to read up about.  One week it is about virtual reality, the next week about modern racism, the next about gun buying frenzies in the mid-west, the next cultural and racial awareness of breast cancer issues...it goes on and on.  In May, I got a call from Catherine Gontarek from the Penn Gazette to do a feature story on tactile virtual reality.

After reading the article my mind immediately sprang to the future possibilities of creating digital art.  I've done digital illustrations using a Wacom with Photoshop and Painter and even have done some finished jobs that way to see if it is a direction I would prefer to go in.  Even got into some annuals.  In the end it wasn't something I preferred.  I am a total computer dork but I like having a physical piece in the end.
The article describes how gamers and even surgeons could use 'tactile' virtual reality to actually feel cutting skin or being shot in their favorite games.  With the gamers, it wasn't enough to just feel the pulse of being shot but trying to recreate the burning sensation of a bullet.  Apparently, they've done research.

Further along in the article it goes into what a pencil would feel like on different surfaces and even describes an example:

"Now imagine dragging a stylus—or a pencil tip, if that’s more familiar—across the smooth screen of a tablet monitor, or a handheld PDA device. It scoots across the glass practically without friction, making almost no sound. 

That’s exactly what doesn’t happen when Romano calls up one of his textures to a screen that sits next to his keyboard. This time, you drag the stylus over a picture of crinkled plastic and it jiggles around in your hand as though you were plowing across actual furrows and seams. The pixels of denim “feel” like a pair of broken-in jeans. Writing on the virtual stationery is downright eerie. The papery scritch-scratch might as well be emanating from a pen nib scrawling an old-fashioned thank-you note."

I imagine the possibilities of running a pen over a tablet and and feeling the sensation of a watercolor brush on heavy handmade paper.  I imagine how having this tactile quality could actually add to the handling of the art itself.  Would I be able to feel the same sensations of running my palette knife over the surface of my painting?  How would this transform digitally created art?  Will having this tactile quality help the artist improve their work?  I would love to hear from digital artists out there your thoughts on this.

Read the full article here:

Penn Gazette - Touching the Virtual Frontier
It was great working with Catherine and had a lot of fun doing these paintings.

As I am writing this, it occurred to me that I haven't gotten the physical copy of the magazine, only the digital PDF's.  I wonder, with the advent of the iPad and other 'readers', that if someone or company is going to create a 'virtual tactile magazine reading sensation' program.  Maybe I can reach up, touch my screen and feel the texture and crinkling of the newspaper and magazine paper as I turn the pages.
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Bakal is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!