The Afro Futuristic Carnival team created an interactive virtual reality experience exploring the Afro Cuban religion of Santeria.

Animation of Goddess Yermaya dancing
Animation of Goddess Yermaya dancing

In the initial prototype developed during Art-A-Hack 2016, audience members in the VR environment see the graceful dancing of the Goddess Yermaya. The VR environment was constructed using Unity, with a 360-degree accompanying soundtrack.

The team captured the movements of dancer Debbie Deas for the Goddess Yermaya avatar using the motion capture studio at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Art-A-Hack partnered with the school for the 2016 season of projects.

The team working at NYU Tandon
The team working at NYU Tandon

One of the unique challenges faced by the team was designing a consistent narrative thread in an interactive VR experience. The the team broke down their story elements using the hero’s journey. One of their insights from this was that narrative does not have to be linear to be cohesive.

Debbie Deas in the motion capture studio
Debbie Deas in the motion capture studio

Another focus area for the team was the role audio played in the experience. The team felt the music and sound effects should be a ‘guide’ helping users navigate between the virtual worlds presented in the experience.

Going forward, the team aims to continue developing this project and display it in a museum or exhibition. They would like to use these platforms to retell Afro-diaspora history through personal experiences.

The team's presentation at the 2016 showcase

As of August 2016, team member Espii Proctor was awarded an Oculus Connect 3 Scholarship allowing her to continue moving the project forward.