FIVARS 2022 Spotlight – When Pixels Were Precious interview with director Jacquelyn Morie

In the early 1980s computers were new and making images with them was an experimental image maker’s dream. This immersive exhibit is a nostalgic look at one artist’s contributions to image-making with this new technological tool. The creations are displayed throughout an old house where they were originally made, and voiceovers explain a bit about the thinking behind each piece.

FIVARS had a chance to speak with VR pioneer, educator, and the director of this work – Jacquelyn Morie.

What lead to the creation of this piece?

Jacquelyn MorieDuring a talk about my history I was giving, my students fell in love with the computer graphic images I was showing that I created in the early 1980s. They encouraged me to find a way to share these works with new audiences and VR seemed the natural way to do it!

What was the production process for you and your team? What did you learn?

We first tried to build the WPWP house in TiltBrush because we wanted a more artistic, nostalgic look, but in the end, we went to more standard modeling so it would be an easier environment to navigate. Kat Yepiz (a former student now at Blizzard) did all the modeling using my references and remembrances, as well as all the interactions.

We wanted something simple, where the newness of computer graphics at the time would be the focus, but also where the place they were made situates the participant in a time long vanished.

When Pixels Were Precious

How did you become an immersive media content creator and why?

I have been an artist since a very young age, and a scientist since my teens. After working in Fine Art, photography, computer graphics, and computer science, I finally found my perfect tool to create experiences with virtual reality in the late 1980s. My focus was then, as now, to make these experiences evoke emotional responses – as in the early days of VR things there was not much of that. I feel that technology has finally caught up with my skills in creating fully immersive, multi-sensory works.

I have been doing this for 30 years and now see that what I have only dreamed of in theory can finally be realized!

What is the VR/AR industry like in your region?

As a major US city, we have an amazing community of companies, participants, and creators

What do you have planned for the future?

My goal for the next year is to get a new version of my patented Scent Collar – the safest scent release device for VR – ready for developers to test out. I firmly believe we have yet to tap into the most amazing aspects of multi-sensory immersive media via our physiology and neurology, and I want to be leading these investigations.

I also think that we are poised to have meaningful AI characters populate our immersive worlds and I want to make ones you will remember forever.

When Pixels Were Precious

What would you like to share with fellow content creators and/or the industry?

Be bold and try things that have never been done, BUT – know the history and learn from those giants who have gone before you.

Do you think VR festivals like FIVARS are important?

FIVARS is critical because it selects important experimental works and not just the polished, more commercially ready works. Every single piece in FIVARS allows us to probe deeply and learn more, and we are all learning the possibilities of this amazing new medium!

Anything else you’d like to add?

I made my first personal VR work in 1992 with my colleague Mike Goslin. It was called Virtopia and it debuted at the 1992 Florida Film Festival, making it the first VR Artwork to be premièred at such a venue. This is only my second festival entry – 30 years later!

This image is a pixel-enhanced self-portrait created in the early 1980s by drawing on a graphics tablet with a monitor turned on its side!

Jacquelyn Morie

Learn more about the World Premiere of When Pixels Were Precious at FIVARS in FALL 2022