Jamie Johnson, Cat Kenzie, and Kaya Ramirez (A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning), Nick Warren (School of Music, Theatre & Dance)

Shmood.Studio is a platform for virtual artistic collaboration and performance that attempts to take advantage of both the benefits and downfalls of current technologies to create an immersive user experience that is completely separate from the physical world. The research produced provides both technical and design foundations for a collaborative website like such to be developed going forward, as well as a prototype demonstrating some of the proposed functions.

Current virtual platforms tend to fall into two categories: one in which there is no effort towards immersion– Zoom, Skype, etc.– and another in which immersion is achieved through the imitation of physical space– virtual reality. Both of these approaches seem to be waiting for the day when better technology is created. Virtual reality solutions often feel like low-fidelity prototypes of future technologies, while video chat platforms do not even approach the subject of immersion to begin with. Shmood.Studio asserts that, using the same technology used by video chat platforms, it is possible to create an environment that achieves what virtual reality only hopes to achieve: full immersion into a virtual performance venue. In doing this, Shmood.Studio makes no attempt to recreate what exists in the real world. Instead, it encourages users to build virtual performance spaces from scratch by combining the spaces and sounds of collaborators into one cohesive, conglomerate virtual space. It then allows individuals to customize parts of their own experience– namely, audio mixing and spatialization.

In addition to optimizing the immersive experience within the current technological landscape, Shmood.Studio leaves some room for future innovation. For example, users can opt-out of built-in workarounds for bandwidth-related latency issues– daisy-chaining of audio, single broadcaster options, etc. These workarounds are vital to synchronization at the moment, but may be less useful as technology advances. In being flexible with what it provides, Shmood.Studio can help create the best possible virtual performance space now and in the future.