Spatium: Roomscale in Virtual Reality



The debut piece of a VR trilogy inspired by the work of legendary hat designer Philip Treacy.


the brief

To design and deliver a world-first roomscale virtual reality and spatial audio experience inspired by a Philip Treacy creation to showcase at the world’s premiere convergence festival, SXSW working in partnership with photographer and director, Roland Lane. To enhance the experience, INITION and Roland Lane also called upon the expertise of installation artist Lucio Cavallari, Mixed Immersion and Rhythm Section International.

The result, ‘Spatium’ is the ultimate convergence project bringing together design, installation, VR, sonic immersion, hip-hop, house… and headwear.

“Fantasy hats give you the possibility to dream” – Philip Treacy

While in the real world, Treacy’s creations are constrained by limitations of space and the physical properties of materials, in the virtual world they can exist as pure concepts.

the solution

After deciding to collaborate with INITION, photographer and director Roland Lane came up with the concept of a fully immersive film split into parts, each featuring an iconic hat brought to life in a different way, and pitched the idea to Philip Treacy.

Spatium is the middle part of an intended trilogy. While the remaining two pieces are conceived to include physical models and object interaction, Spatium – the central segment – represents the breathing space between. In a way that only VR makes possible, structure and form are explored on a scale that escapes the bounds of the physical, creating a fantasy of light, sound and shadow.

Created as roomscale VR for the HTC Vive, Spatium comprises of four abstract scenes where Treacy’s original creation is rendered into a unique VR object that users can explore and interact with to move each scene on. When seen from the front, the hat appears flat – yet the more you explore, the more you discover an ornate and elaborate structure. When struck by light it appears to glow.

These attributes are given such scale as to create a fantasy building, the surfaces of which change as you navigate them. In VR the hat becomes architecture – where the limitations of the physical no longer apply, inspiring wonder.

In the sound and audio, Mixed Immersion took the music created by Hidden Spheres and used it to craft a soundtrack that fully envelops the visual world. The team combined and manipulated real-world acoustic samples with synthesised elements to define each space acoustically in VR – thus giving each an atmospheric, full 3D effect and bringing realism to the experience.

In the installation, Cavallari sought to bring physical expression to what the viewer experiences inside VR. A mirror version of the Unreal experience is fed through to Unity so that head tracking and depth of field are mirrored in real time on a subtly-constructed set of screens, which enclose the space at eye-level. This letterboxed version of the fully immersive experience plays with ideas of presence and absence, physical and virtual. For people watching outside of the headset, the site installation creates a sliver of what is being seen from within the virtual world; the person that sees is also seen.

the result

Spatium  was invited to showcase in both VR Cinema as well as ‘Style’, SXSW’s fashion  activation in March of 2017 in Austin, Texas. Both activations were a huge success, with sessions booked out days in advance  and over 500 people having had the Spatium experience during the 5 days it was live. We achieved features in USA Today, The Drum and Vanity Fair, with many industry insiders as well as innovation experts posting and commenting. The piece received  invitations to showcase at other festivals from Brazil to Australia.

“The scope and scale of working in VR is breathtaking; there are no limits to what is possible. The challenge of creating like that, while communicating a coherent message to the viewer, is truly addictive. Working closely with INITION on this project has been a pleasure at every stage and the results are incredibly exciting. I’m fully converted to working in VR and very excited about the future.”

ROLAND LANE, director

“INITION has long had a reputation for pushing boundaries, particularly at the intersection where technology and creativity meet. We see our place as ‘taming’ new technologies that arrive on the market. There is no better place to do this than on projects that are self-initiated – driven by the interests of people within the company. We walk the walk. It’s an important part of our DNA.”

Adrian Leu, CEO, INITION



  • Rethinking fashion editorial
  • Retail activations
  • Visualisation of an ‘in-headset’ experience for wider audiences