New Media Art graduates Ieva Vīksne, Līga Vēliņa and Kaspars Lēvalds win Delfi.lv prize in a VR hackathon

New Media Art graduates Ieva Vīksne (who is also part of Liepaja University Art Research Lab team), Līga Vēliņa and Kaspars Lēvalds take part in the Riga IFF and Magnetic Latvia hackathon and win Delfi.lv prize with VR experience "The Living Room" telling about the Holocaust in Latvia from a child's perspective

Riga IFF Goes VR, a program of virtual reality (VR) technology at the Riga International Film Festival ("Riga IFF"), also hosted a hackathon organized by Magnetic Latvia to use VR technology to create educational tools for children and young people. The jury voted on the winners of the DELFI Campus Award and selected a team that within 24 hours created a prototype for an educational VR experience "The Living Room". It's an empirically engaging virtual reality experience that tells about significant events in Latvias history from a child's perspective. In the prototype developed the team chose to tackle the task defined by the Žanis Lipke Memorial and to report on what was happening in Latvia in 1941, but emphasized that such an approach and solution could be transferred to other areas of teaching.

"Our goal was to create an empathic, emotional experience in virtual reality where a user can identify as a 10-12 year old young child of Jewish descent in 1941. Our VR experience is not illustrative and does not directly reflect the horrors of war, but creates sound, light, space associations about how insecure you feel when your surroundings change and become unfamiliar, you lose control and your home, "explains Liga and Ieva.

The team succeeded in modeling a virtual living room for what it would look like in 1941 within 24 hours - items, photographs, show that a Jewish family lives there. Particularly impressive was the surround sound landscape, which used authentic materials from that period.

The space had three forms, representing three months during World War II in Latvia - June (shortly before the invasion of the Nazi German army), July (occupation) and October (the extermination of Jews in Latvia is in full swing). At the end of the experience, the user himself loses control altogether - an invisible force "pulls" him/her out of the room, leaving the player uncertain about the end of the story, is the child rescued or do trageic events take place? 

"To put it all together, the main aim of the story is to deliver the emotional experience of this historical story through first-person interactive experiences - not only to educate children and young people, but also to identify, to create empathic experience. We believe this is a current topic, as  many children 's and young people' s daily lives include these kinds of traumatic events. If you manage to reflect on it a little, the task has been achieved," explains team members.

 

You can read more about the team's experience at Delfi.lv: https://www.delfi.lv/campus/raksti/macit-caur-empatiju-delfi-balvas-ieguveji-virtualas-realitates-hakatona?id=51573721&fbclid=IwAR146u3lmoBbY8EZz3cU7F4HrLmwxLC4HFOK5YohLnazy8SxoKVAibNlr2I

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