Virtual Balance

Fleischmann & Strauss
© ; Fleischmann & Strauss

(collective) Monika Fleischmann | Wolfgang Strauss

Virtual Balance ,
Co-workers & Funding
Concept and Management: Monika Fleischmann, Wolfgang Strauss
Technical Team: Vladimir Elistratov, Jens Muuss, Karsten Sikora, Thomas Sikora, Josef Speier. Realized at: VISWIZ Group at GMD - German National Research Center for Informationtechnology, Germany.
Software: Softimage, 3DK Virtual Studio, Inhouse Sensor Control State Engine.
  • The Virtual Balance - looking with the feet (1995)
    720 × 576
  • Virtual Balance - Set up
    989 × 835
  • The Virtual Balance - looking with the feet (1995)
    720 × 576
  • Virtual Balance, Xanten
    283 × 227
  • VB-Cave
    592 × 513
  • Balance/Gesture
    2066 × 1581
Understanding interactivity in cyberspace as a seamless experience rather than a clickable one, Virtual Balance borrows from the myth of the magic carpet to move through data. The magic carpet, popularized in One Thousand and One Nights, has long been an iconic way to travel the world. According to Persian mythology, King Solomon had a magic carpet on which his entire palace could stand.
The Virtual Balance interface is based on human-machine interaction through the movement of the human body on a weight sensor platform. The performer stands on the a floor plate and navigates a virtual 3D environment with simple weight shifts and movements. The platform's weight sensors detect each weight shift and convert it into positional data of movement and speed for navigation through a virtual 3D landscape.
Sensors detect changes in weight and transmit them to an analyzer, which passes on the position and orientation of the navigator in the virtual environment to the graphics system in real time. A minimal shift of weight on the platform allows for navigation. Stepping forward is to go down and walk. Leaning back is to go up and fly. This dynamic perspective allows the viewer to experience a virtual environment from a bird's-eye or walker's perspective. It requires just body balance to move through virtual spaces with the Virtual Balance.The result was such an intense sensory experience that the visitors were fully immersed in their emergent interactive behavior, even without the use of VR glasses.

Navigation with this body-centric interface is like looking with your feet. It is the body itself that becomes the interface. Without excluding the real world, the visitor is immersed in a virtual reality. Virtual Balance also serves as a platform for observing the effects that tangible navigation can have on the human body. During a presentation at CeBit '96 in Hanover, Germany, neurologist Hinderk Emrich found himself dancing on the Virtual Balance platform. He discovered an "electrifying" way of looking at how the interface affects the human body. On display was a reconstruction of the ancient Roman village of Colonia Ulpia Traiana (100 AD) based on archaeological data.

Tactile perception includes not only touch perception, but also exploratory perception. Sensing one's own body in the virtual environment - here with the help of the Virtual Balance floor plate - observably expanded body awareness. The floor under their feet becomes an interactive surface and the body's perceptual sensitivity coupled with body balance becomes the control tool. Sensing one's own body establishes bodily self-awareness. The sense of touch is our basic sense. Ultimately, it is only through the experience of touch that we learn to perceive and classify visual impressions. According to Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s statement “I feel, therefore I am” we could observe that visitors felt more motivated to navigate in the virtual environment through tangible exploration of a virtual world.
Obviously, Virtual Balance is a performative interface because it evokes something in our behavior that is not part of the purpose of a navigation system: It evokes a sense of movement and stimulates a physical performance. It is as if we dance as we walk, something we rarely do. Virtual Balance (1994) was a body-centered navigation platform. It anticipated the Nintendo Wii Board (2006), a commercial device for gymnastic exercises. It is an example of the fact that it is media art that provides the blueprints for industrial development without being paid for it.
  • genres
    • installations
      • interactive installations
      • mixed reality
  • subjects
    • Art and Science
    • Body and Psychology
      • bodies (animal components)
  • technology
    • displays
      • electronic displays
    • interfaces
      • interactive media
        • touch user interfaces
      • virtual balance
Technology & Material
“Virtual Balance“ is equipped with weight sensors and connected to the 3DK graphics system for a Virtual Studio. The incoming data from the weight sensors is evaluated as position data and forwarded to the computer that performs the real-time calculation of the spatial view.
  • Fleischmann, Monika and Wolfgang Strauss. »Extended Performance – Virtuelle Bühne, Selbstrepräsentanz und Interaktion..« Kaleidoskopien, Theatralität, Performance, Medialität. Institut für Theaterwissenschaft der Universität Leipzig, no. Körperinformationen 384 (February 2000): 52-57.
  • Fleischmann, Monika and Wolfgang Strauss and Vladimir Yelistratov. »Interfacing Cultural Heritage.« In Proceedings of Eurographics Multimedia '99, edited by N. Correia and T. Chambel and G. Davenport: Springer Verlag, 1999.
  • Fleischmann, Monika and Wolfgang Strauss. »The Virtual Balance: An Input Device for VR Environments.« Proc of 6th Interfaces, Man-machine interaction, Montpellier La Lettre de I’IA, no. Nr. 123) (June 1997): 20-23.
  • Fleischmann, Monika. »Jetztzeit: Now.« In Interaktiv: Im Labyrinth der Wirklichkeiten: Über Multimedia, Kindheit und Bildung; über reale und virtuelle Interaktion und Welten, edited by Wolfgang Zacharias and Kulturpolit. Gesellschaft BonnBonn, Essen: Klartext Verlag, 1996.