Our artists in residency, Yann Deval and Marie G. Losseau, presented a preview of ATLAS, the work in progress, on invitation of the European Commission at SxSW in Texas, Austin, from March 10-12. ATLAS is an experience that mixes augmented reality and virtual reality and spectators were invited to engage with it to build virtual cities using the ATLAS seed launcher. Each seed sprouts a house, following some urbanistic rules, adapting to their environment. There are houses in the clouds, uprooted houses, houses on stilts, flying houses, and more. The cities assembled by the audience take on a life of their own, with and without interaction of the users, just like any living organism. The work allows to assemble huge cities, in which you can wander and loose yourself. It provokes a reflection on urbanism, architecture, and their influence on our lifestyle. It gives life to the inanimate.

The big question ATLAS helps to explore is one about the relationship of physical space to virtual space. ATLAS transforms the user’s physical space into a map of the environment, swapping perspectives.

The map serves as a launch pad for sprouting houses, establishing a link between the physical space of the user’s surrounding and the holographic houses.

Technically, this was realised using custom shaders, using CG, the shader programming language by NVidia. Holographic houses can be hidden, when they pass behind a physical object. This was created with ease using Hololens tools, but adds real value and credibility to the experience.

The Hololens, by Microsoft, is a ‘developer kit’, a prototype. The space where holograms are displayed is very limited, and that can often disrupt the feeling of immersion for the user. ATLAS uses this limitation as a creative constraint: user gaze unveils the virtual overlays organically, making the limitations appear as if by choice.

Though not an essential technical change, from the user perspective this was a significant one. Frustration decreased and the number of participants mentioning the limitation of the field of view decreased eminently.

ATLAS will offer different chapters, each submerging the user into another layer of augmented reality. Dividing the experience into chapters is perhaps an influence of literature on our work.

To give the houses life, an animation was created with Houdini, a 3D software for procedural animations and simulations. Houdini is a procedural tool, which helped to speed up development of the organic animation, compared with when using other tools such as MeshLab or Cinema4d.

Several different houses were 3D-scanned and integrated, some of them built by artist Marie Loseau, others by 9-year-old kids during the MCCS series of workshops in Molenbeek, Brussels.


To build bridges between realities, windows were created that let the spectator view into a VR world.

The outcome of the residency at this point is a functional prototype, a five minute MR (Mixed Reality) experience for a single user.

The prototype was also presented at MCCS Molenbeek, where 100 kids participated in the project Classes Urbaines. A lot of ideas for the next chapters of the work are coming together during discussions with the WEKIT project team and our Oxford Brookes University students. These will be integrated in September during the next Oxford residency!

ATLAS (prototype): An experience by Yann Deval & Marie G. Losseau
In collaboration with WEKIT / Dr. Fridolin Wild (Oxford Brookes University) for the Mixed Reality part.
Kids from Molenbeek’s schools 1, 5 and 10 for contributing to the building of the cities.
With the support of VERTIGO STARTS program of the European Commission with IRCAM-Centre Pompidou and EPFL
Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles
Maison des Cultures et de la Cohésion Sociale de Molenbeek Saint-Jean
Wallonie-Bruxelles International

Programming, graphic design and music by
Yann Deval

Model making and scenography by
Marie G. Losseau

WEKIT (Oxford Brookes University / Performance Augmentation Laboratory)
Dr. Fridolin Wild
Alla Vovk
Will Guest

External contributions (Mixed Reality)
TriplanarWorld Shader by Robert Yang
SpatialMappingRendererWithNormals by Matt@DeckTwelve