It makes sense that there would be a rush to develop the most realistic, highest polygon count, most finely textured visions for virtual reality. After all, that’s the dream, right? The ability to create worlds, to remake reality itself, only perhaps better, richer, more full of wonder.
Yet as our little NYU Holodeck has started to become a reality, I find myself pulling strongly in a very different direction. I spent much of this weekend working on an animated stick figure. As I worked at it, I realized fairly early on that my inspiration was the xkcd webcomic, and its simple yet remarkably evocative characters.
It was a little over a year ago that I had the privilege of meeting Randall Munroe in person, having been a follower of xkcd for years. I showed him my software for making sketches come to life and turn into animated characters. At the time I felt a little like an aspiring songwriter playing a tune for Bob Dylan.
But he was very kind and helpful, and gave me some good suggestions. He helped me to realize that it’s not about making things more real, but about finding great expressiveness in a few strokes.
I think I’m channelling some of that energy now. I’m not so much interested in creating a physically accurate world, but rather a world filled with expressive characters, teeming with personalities and emotions and human ideas. Deliberately swinging away from realism — putting stick figures on the Holodeck — is one way to get closer to that.
Besides, it’s pretty cool to see a little stick figure man walking across a table. 🙂