Three visually stunning dimensions, 33 million pixels of resolution and a high-performance tracking system make Ars Electronica’s Deep Space 8K one of the world’s most exciting digital experience spaces – developed, built and continuously maintained by the Ars Electronica Futurelab. Deep Space EVOLUTION brings several new programs to the public in 2022, as well as a major upgrade to the technical infrastructure – enabling even more brilliant images with lower energy consumption.

The new programs from the Ars Electronica Futurelab:

The novel CAVE set the starting point for immersive 3D environments at Ars Electronica in 1996. The Ars Electronica Futurelab spent years developing the first Deep Space, which was presented to the public for the first time at the Ars Electronica Center in 2009. Since then, the virtual 3D experience space has been continuously maintained and expanded by the lab in terms of both hardware and software. Eight projectors, each with a pixel rate of 4096 x 2160 calculated 120 times per second, provide the 16-by-9-meter wall projection and the equally large floor projection with unique worlds of experience.

New technology

With Deep Space EVOLUTION, new laser projectors instead of lamps now provide even sharper images with the highest brilliance: they display a larger color space, but no longer have to be cooled as much – as a result, they are much quieter and require 32 percent less energy. In addition, the laser projectors eliminate the need to regularly replace lamps that contain heavy metals. The seven Deep Space 8K workstations have also been technically upgraded: 200 percent more computing power is now available, while energy consumption is reduced by ten percent. Two new graphics cards per computer replace the previous four, which reduces power consumption by around 40 percent.

The tracking system used in Deep Space 8K has received an exciting enhancement. Previously, the 2D tracking of the Futurelab system pharus could be used to determine the position of any number of people or objects on the ground with extreme precision. Now, the room also has a 3D tracking system that can detect people and objects in any position in space. The combination of these systems opens up new possibilities for interactive audience programs and artistic programs by the Ars Electronica Futurelab and external partners. The new tracking system is already being used in the lab’s virtual production system Deep Virtual, and in the future will also inspire visitors with The Lost Lair of the Surviving Species.

The control and operating system has also been enhanced with Deep Space EVOLUTION: Updated software brings more security and reliability, a new content management system opens up new features, and presenters can now access a simplified control interface on their smartphones. 3D content development now relies on the Unreal Engine, which is also used by the world’s leading game productions. The license management for content packages has also made it from prototype to product maturity: Content from Deep Space 8K can now be easily distributed to partners and customers worldwide. This system is already partly in use at JKU medSPACE at the JKU MED Campus Linz and at Cubo Negro in the Centro de Ciencias in Culiacan, Mexico.

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New Programs

Visitors can expect an exciting new program in Deep Space EVOLUTION, including several new developments from the Ars Electronica Futurelab:

In Welcome to Planet B, they’ll discover our common path to the climate goal, with an expedition to various climate scenarios in the year 2100 that’s as entertaining as it is educational. With Sounding Letters, they’ll enjoy a virtual piano concert in 3D, composed with the help of artificial intelligence. With the upgrade of the Virtual Anatomy program, which is now also being used highly successfully in medical studies at JKU Linz in JKU medSPACE, the audience also gains completely new insights into human anatomy.
Also in development is The Lost Lair of the Surviving Species: In the interactive VR world, the audience goes in search of extinct animal species such as imposing mammoths. The program builds on the Ars Electronica Futurelab’s new virtual video production system Deep Virtual.

In addition to these in-house developments, the Ars Electronica Futurelab team has ported other programs from external developers and artists to Deep Space EVOLUTION: The new version of the planetarium program Uniview takes visitors on a journey to auroras, far-away solar systems with exoplanets, a pulsar, a black hole, the James Webb Space Telescope and much more. And Transient – Impermanent Paintings by artists Quayola/Seta uses an algorithm to combine hyper-realistic digital brushstrokes and piano tones to create fascinating synesthetic landscapes.

The work of the Ars Electronica Futurelab demonstrates the possibilities offered by Deep Space EVOLUTION: Through the interplay of cutting-edge hardware and software components with immersive program highlights, Deep Space 8K once again offers incomparable experiences, a stage for science, a digital research environment for VR experiments and a creative free space for art.

Read all about Deep Space EVOLUTION and the new programs on the Ars Electronica Blog: