The ultra new visions of VR: NewView Awards judge Keng-Ming Liu on the new perceptual order

This article was rewritten in English, see original Chinese article here.

The virtual reality worlds so beloved in sci-fi canon (ahem, The Matrix, anyone?) is not so far-off, and Keng-Ming Liu is ready to embrace the new world order.

A pioneer in the motion graphics industry, Liu has an impressive track record that includes art direction for the MTV Network, as well as founding the Taipei-based production studio Bito – which nabbed a Red Dot Award for its 2017 Taipei Universiade promotional short film. (Watch the short film here)

Creative and technical in equal parts, Liu embraced his latest role – immersed in the world of VR as one of the 2019 NewView Awards judges. For Liu, VR is a wholly new experience in visual perception, with the potential of engendering profound impacts on society. Designers, then, “need to change their ways of thinking in order to tackle this great challenge,” says Liu.

Keng-Ming Liu in his studio, formerly the backstage of an old theatre built in the 1920’s. It’s vintage through and through, from its heritage locale in Taipei’s west, to the retro arcade machines in his reception area.

Newview, new order
Our perceptual reality is already changing, fast. Colorful streams of information via big and small LED screens flood our daily lives – from mobile phones to shopping malls to corporate buildings to sports stadiums. Virtual reality technology, however, remains a little slept on… quietly waiting to be used and experimented with, to create new visions for all sectors and industries. Our very own NewView Awards, then, occupies a significant space in this context – since it was not only born out of the desire to further the development of VR design, but also tries to reimagine its scope beyond just gaming and entertainment. 

NewView 2019 Finalists

The brainchild of Psychic VR Lab, Parco and Loftwork, the NewView Awards is an international art, culture and fashion VR competition established in 2017. Using Psychic VR Lab’s ‘Styly’ tool, even those without the necessary programming or coding skills can easily create VR content online and submit their works. For the 2019 edition, some 145 artists, designers and developers all over the globe came together under the theme of ‘Ultra Experiences’. (Case study: Artists create ultimate futures and new VR visions for Newview project)

As an international competition, NewView relies heavily on FabCafe’s extensive global network of creative communities – through which collaborators, partners and even judges like Keng-Ming Liu can be found. As one of nine judges on the 2019 NewView jury, Liu was impressed by the diversity of the jury members’ backgrounds, personalities and styles – and the willingness to engage with one another in spite of it. According to Liu, the team, hailing from Japan, Canada, Shanghai, etc., and industries such as animation, architecture and filmmaking, was perfect for reviewing selecting the most cutting-edge VR works. 

Keng-Ming Liu as judge for NEWVIEW AWARDS 2019 at the screening sessions


Different perspectives, multiple visions
As a 2019 NewView judge, Liu says he gained many different perspectives in the process of looking at the works that successfully intertwined technology and concept.

VR Manga World for Styly

The 23 Year-Old Confession

Many of the 2019 works were deeply influenced by animation and anime culture, as Aki Oeka’s ‘VR Manga World for Styly’. For Liu, some of the most impactful works in this area were from Japan, due to an existing thriving culture of digital art and VR experiments (for example, virtual popstars). Taiwanese creators, on the other hand, excelled in explorations of gender discourse; Wong Hoi Ian’s ‘The 23 Year-Old Confession’, for example, was a rendering of the artist’s chaotic imaginations of sex.

Piece of String by Wyatt Roy

‘Takkun Museum’ by Takkun

Liu was most moved by Wyatt Roy’s ‘Piece of String’ and Takkun’s ‘Takkun Museum’, with the former work reminding him of his own former apartment in Brooklyn.

“There are too many details in the room – to the point of being entirely immersive, yet they are not real, and some of which even look painted. I was in the house exploring for a long time,” says Liu. “ Many VR narratives are not linear, but to be explored by the user, which offers a very personal experience. 

Takkun’s ‘Takkun Museum’, on the other hand, is a playful take on the sentiment that all children are born artists. A collection of his son’s accumulated drawings and toys, the artist uses VR to establish a digital diary of sorts. As he emphasizes, “you may not remember what you have seen, but you will not forget the things that moved you.” 

Virtual Reality: The future of seeing, creating

As Keng-Ming Liu says, VR is not dissimilar to 3D drawing or 3D sculpture. However, VR does not operate software passively, but instead becomes its own sculptor. 

For Liu, the beauty of VR is that creators can present their experiences, imaginations, the subconscious –  visual realities known only to themselves. Not only should VR cater itself to the entertainment industry, but also be used for flight simulation or surgery simulation training, or for social design.  

Of course, VR is not without its disadvantages; Liu points out that its biggest limitation is the need to wear headsets – which is currently challenging for mass, mainstream use, commercially-speaking. However, Liu is optimistic; for him, VR is merely in a transitional period, with appropriate solutions in the future. The current priority? Learn new technologies. 

NewView Exhibition 2019 in Taipei at Huashan 1914 Creative Park

Liu takes the same approach in design. For him, sticking to the same tricks may result in being squeezed out by automation. Who’s to say that AI cannot create instantly eye-catching works from analyzing all the great graphic designs of the 20th century, selecting the most effective and learning all the data – within seconds?

This emphasis on technology, however, is not a dismissal of concept altogether. “The two must be balanced,” says Liu. “I often encourage engineers to go learn design.” 

“Ultimately, good concepts, ideas and storytelling skills are immutable – 2D, 3D and VR are all just methods of presentation.”


Related event: NEWVIEW AWARDS 2019 國際新銳 VR 作品體驗展
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FabCafe Taipei

Located inside of Huashan 1914 Creative Park in the city’s center, FabCafe Taipei was founded in 2012 by Tim Wong, a Harvard alumni with an architecture background. As a team, FabCafe Taipei’s diverse repertoire includes exhibitions, events, hackathons, ideathons and various seminars. See FabCafe Taipei page here.

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