Buzzwords: Swimming with whales, engineered heart, foldable arms and Picasso
Image credit: Dreamstime
From diving with mysterious creatures of the deep blue to security in the art world, here we present what makes words such as virtual reality and blockchain tick in our brains.
‘Swimming with humpback whales’ VR experience
If you’re afraid of the deep blue, this may not be for you... A UK-based immersive virtual-reality entertainment business, Immotion Group, has released a live-action VR experience, providing a rare glimpse and insight into one of the most mysterious creatures on the planet, the humpback whale.
This world first is the introductory instalment of the company’s Blue Ocean Aquarium series, which saw a collaboration with lead free-driving cinematographer Jeff Hester to create the experience. Hester filmed a pod of humpback whales, who were on migration from Antarctica, in live-action VR in the Kingdom of Tonga during the mating season.
If you’re interested in seeing a female whale giving birth and a male trying to woo a female, this experience will allow you to do so as Hester captured virtually every move of the whales’ travels.
The CEO of Immotion Group, Martin Higginson, says: “The film provides an incredible insight into these elusive creatures,” and the experience “makes full use of the visual, sound and motion capabilities of our VR Cinematic motion pods to deliver our customers something ground-breaking and memorable.”
The most challenging part of the process of filming the VR experience was that Hester had to hold his breath for four minutes at a time as the bubbles generated from a scuba suit would have disturbed these magnificent creatures, according to the company’s creative director Ian Liddell.
“At certain points, our camera is just three inches away from the whales’ pectoral fins,” Liddell explains. “From seeing them show dominance by rolling over and flapping their fins, a mother bonding with her calf, to the young whales gaining their independence – we’ve captured it all.”
There’s no doubt that marine life documentaries have the best-quality cinematography. You simply have to watch David Attenborough’s award-winning series ‘Blue Planet II’, or even his latest Netflix show ‘Our Planet’, to witness how extraordinary marine-life footage can look on the small and big screen. Now VR will allow this quality experience to be taken up to another, more immersive, level.
Immotion’s short film is available on its VR Cinematic motion pods at Immotion VR stores across the UK. Consumers will also be able to view it through SonyVR or via mobile downloads on iOS and Android device
Patient’s biological materials ‘printed’ in world first
Researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel have ‘printed’ the world’s first 3D vascularised engineered heart using the patient’s own cells and biological materials.
In the past, scientists in regenerative medicine have only been successful in printing tissue. However, “this is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers”, says Professor Tal Dvir at TAU’s School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology.
Such a breakthrough would be beneficial when it comes to actually placing a 3D-printed heart inside a human. As it would be made from the patient’s own biomedical materials, the chances of their body rejecting the implant would be slim. After all, when it comes to organ transplants, it’s a matter of compatibility... and what could be more compatible than your own biomedical and cellular make-up?
Improving drones via foldable arms
When it comes to delivering objects via drone, you need the most mint of weather conditions for it to be successful. If conditions were to become windy, a drone’s journey would be disrupted. With this in mind, a Purdue University (Indiana) researcher has come up with a patented design for drones that are able to withstand wind and can handle a larger payload.
Xiumin Diao, an assistant professor in Purdue’s School of Engineering Technology, says the drone design was inspired by the wings and flight patterns of insects, creating a device “with automatic folding arms that can make in-flight adjustments”.
The folding arms can move and change the centre of gravity of the device during flight, thus improving stability in windy conditions.
Such a feature may also be appropriate in drone search-and-rescue operations as they would be able to navigate and adjust to the air conditions. Last thing you’d want is a rescue drone malfunctioning mid-operation.
Investing in blockchain tech for art security
In March 2019, an art crimes investigator in the Netherlands recovered Pablo Picasso’s 1938 painting ‘Portrait of Dora Maar’, which was stolen the from the yacht of its Saudi Arabian owner in the south of France 20 years ago. This has piqued the interest of curators and artists wanting to invest in innovative technology to crack down on crime in the $40bn (£30bn) art market. Perhaps blockchain technology could be key to this?
Stephen Howes, an art dealer at art-tech agency Thomas Crown Art, says: “Ninety per cent of museum art thefts involve an insider, often using high-level forgery techniques to produce fakes.”
Blockchain provides the ability to store a “permanent, immutable record of artwork at the point of creation or beyond which can be used to authenticate registered works by anyone with an internet connection,” and tracking these pieces creates a chain of custody that documents their ownership and transfer, including the pieces’ auctions, sale values and other verified information, Howes adds.
Blockchain could very well be the key in securing signature pieces such as those of Picasso’s and many other famous portraits, such pieces that are ever-valuable and admired by many art lovers.
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