Assimilation: A Design Piece by Molly Smisko

INITION is in collaboration with talented art student, Molly Smisko on her upcoming design project “Assimilation”. The partnership was an exciting project for INITION to showcase an experience that ignites, inspires and awakens something new in the minds of our audiences. INITION were eager to get involved and provide the means to bring the sensation to life.                                                                                

Mixed Realities                                                                                                                

The inception of the project idea was originally inspired by the increasing fusion of technology into our lives and the illusions created through mixed realities. “Assimilation” aims to absorb the viewer into a new world and combine the virtual world with the physical one. One intriguing perception of technology is that it offers limitless possibilities for humans as a species and this project aims to apply our senses to address the connection between real and ‘virtual’ realities.

This project explores the transition from human to cyborg while utilising our intrinsically human senses such as sight, smell and touch. The idea to create a visceral reality that links physical sensors with an emotive response evokes the idea of the ethereal – a world that brings us closer to technology than ever before. The main goal of “Assimilation” is illusion and immersion; using technology and the virtual to question the real and the physical.

In order to evoke emotional responses from the virtual world that correspond to interactions with physical objects, Molly will use technology to merge the two experiences. INITION provided Molly with the HTC Vive virtual reality headset and LeapMotion technology to give the sensation of touch with our hands in a completely new experience.

Virtual vs. Physical

For the project, Molly decided to use ‘passive haptic’ objects that exist in both the physical and virtual world. In the virtual world, the user is able to reach out and interact with the objects while simultaneously interacting with them in the physical space. The next stage of the production would be integrating the use of ‘programmable devices’ to be able to emit smells, temperatures or other physical sensors. While the visuals are to be computer generated, the sounds, smells and touch sensations are physical.

“Linking my knowledge of virtual reality, digital design, as well as research of interactive design and cyborg identity, I am looking to accomplish a fusion of physical and virtual worlds in an interactive capacity, utilizing human senses to connect the two,” Molly explains. “I will create emotive and immersive objects and experiences for the viewer.”


Technology as a Medium of Expression

The HTC Vive system provides the perfect setup because of its room-scale capabilities, allowing the user to walk around in a predetermined space that also exists in the virtual world. “Assimilation” allows users to use these capabilities to further enhance the realistic aspect of the experience. The HTC Vive allows users to use utilise their natural physical movements to expand the limitations of the virtual experience. LeapMotion is a motion capture technology that specialises in tracking hands in virtual reality. Using the hands in the project are essential to create the complex illusion and so INITION was keen to assist in the production of the experience by providing the technology in order to make the experience work.

Ultimately, the whole experience aims to create a mixed reality where how an object feels in ‘real life’ will affect what a user sees, hears, smells and feels in the virtual world. Molly’s expectations for the project is definitely worth seeing: “The final outcome will be a spatial installation where the viewer is immersed in the virtual world but is also visible to passersby. It displays new uses of virtual reality and burgeoning technology.”

About Molly

Molly Smisko

Molly Smisko is a student at the Chelsea College of Art in London. With a background in textiles, she is now gravitating towards digital work, exploring film, projection onto surface and holographic still lives. Her theoretical studies have prompted her to explore technological thinking and she wrote a dissertation on “Creating Women: Technology, Desire and Control” exploring depictions of digital female entities and the creation and oppression of mechanical women. The dissertation also discusses where technology may take us with focus on immortality and cyborgism. Originally from upstate New York, she moved to New York City to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology, majoring in Textile and Surface Design with an associate’s degree, before moving to London.

Molly often likes to verge between playfulness and eeriness in her work by creating illusions with technology. Using virtual reality, she can link the worlds that people experience with external stimuli that play on the rest of the senses (touch, smell, hearing).

You can see more projects from Molly at:

The Showcase

Molly’s piece will be showcased at the Clerkenwell Design Week Sensorium hosted by HASSELL AND HÅG – An immersive journey through an urban pleasure gardenThe pleasure garden, ‘Sensorium’, will explore how we view and experience the world around us, whether through everyday technology, or through our physical presence in a space. The showcase will play with smells, textures and sound, leading visitors to question how the senses influence their experience.

You can also see the piece at the Chelsea Undergraduate Summer Show 2016, hosted at the Chelsea College of Arts: