One Tank Trip: Sensory Engineering at Goggleworks


When we look at art in a gallery, we are usually looking at it with our own two eyes and can see the brush strokes on an oil painting or the vibrant colors on a print.

Up on the second floor of the GoggleWorks in Reading in the Schmidt gallery, Sensory Engineering is taking art in the physical world and putting it in virtual reality.

"It's been great seeing the reactions of people where their eyes light up and they can see this kind of new, magical experience that they didn't have before. You see that a couple of times through people's lives where they are actually surprised and they are happy about it," explained Jason Morris, co-manager of the Goggleworks Virtual Relativty (VR) lab in Reading.

It's like art is breaking the fourth wall, reaching out, offering this other world, inviting you in to look around and sometimes even create. All the paintings on the walls in this exhibit, 34 of them, were scanned into a computer or photographed. With VR glasses on, the art you were just looking at in the physical world is now in front of you in a virtual world. It's the same piece of art just presented in a different way.

The exhibit is divided by stations. At one, when you're wearing VR glasses, you see the paintings in this section, you can zero in on one and it takes you inside the artist's studio.

"VR is about being able to show somebody an experience that they haven't been able to have before," Morris said.

"It's kind of like the Green Eggs and Ham moment with people, right? Where they have preconceptions about VR, the usefulness of it," explained Kris Jackson, the other co-manager of the VR Lab.

Take a painting titled St. John the Baptist by Reading artist Schonn Wanner. Put the VR glasses on in this station and the painting is now hanging in front of you in a virtual space. Move around and you can see under the water at the bottom. Hold the controllers and you can add your own embellishments. You become the artist while the painting on the wall in the physical world remains untouched.

To find out more information on the exhibit, visit Goggleworks Center for the Arts' website.