White Island: Installation, Interactive Virtual Environment, Virtual Reality headset, custom interface, rope, electric fan, 5.1 surround audio

Ruth Gibson (Producer)

Research output: Practice-Based and Non-textual ResearchArtefact


This innovative Virtual Reality installation was created using the first developer version of the Oculus Rift Headset (DK1). The installation uses a custom built physical analogue interface which measures movement of a rope to control a virtual balloon. The endless simulation uses a physics engine to enact inertia, wind and gravity. Applying principlesand ideas from Skinner Releasing Dance Technique, together with surround sound, the embodied interface makes for a compelling immersive experience.

White Island draws on S. A. Andrée’s doomed Polar balloon expedition of 1897. Attempting to reach the Pole, Andrée’s balloon crashed on the ice near Kvitøya (White Island). The three expedition members perished and their final campsite was only located in 1930. Consulting textual and photographic documentation left by original expedition members, Gibson/Martelli built an immersive virtual reality world using height-map data and game engine technology.

Research Aims:
- Apply somatic practice to interface/world design.
- Promote perception through action on behalf of the player.
- Encourage physical interaction in gallery installation.
- Use virtual reality give a sense of space and motion.
- Use non-photorealistic rendering to enhance immersion.
- Create novel interface( rather than standard game controller) to increase kinaesthetic response.

Ruth applied the principles of Skinner Releasing Dance Technique to the embodied interface designs and imagery. Rope interfaces emphasise touch promoting perception through action on behalf of the player. Material controls warranted physical interaction — textured and real, fashioned from hemp fibre. Custom software simulates inertia, gravity and weight giving the sensation of moving through water or of flying, suspended in the air. Pulling, stretching, spinning and turning the participant traverses through the landscape.

Funded By Art Council England, Quad Digital Residency, and supported by the Arctic Circle Residency.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014
EventIslands: Richard Ducker & Gibson/Martelli - Coleman Project Space, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 21 Jun 201420 Jul 2014



  • Virtual reality
  • installation
  • interactive
  • Interfaces (computer)
  • audio
  • Arctic
  • game engines
  • unreal

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