University of Iceland

Folktales in virtual reality

Folktales in virtual reality

The latest technology and old folklore is combined in a very exciting project that four Master's students in applied studies in culture and communication at the University of Iceland are currently working on. The final goal is an exhibition where guests can experience elves, fairies and supernatural beings through the perspective of virtual reality.

"Our idea is in fact a combination of many factors. The basis is probably my experience working at the National Museum prohibiting people to touch the exhibits. I began wondering about people's need to touch to experience a connection to reality, for example whether touching exhibits would make them and the stories they represent more real. I began thinking about possibilities to meet this need. At the same time I was also working with the idea communicating folklore on elves and hidden people to a wider audience," says Ólöf Magnúsdóttir, one of the four women behind the project.

Ólöf took an innovation course with Svanhvít Tryggvadóttir, Sólrún Ingvadóttir and Kristín Mjöll Jakobsdóttir within applied studies in culture and communication where the idea was developed. The project is exactly in line with the studies as it aims at utilise a new mode of communication technique to preserve a valuable cultural heritage found in Icelandic folklore.

Ólöf, Svanhvít, Sólrún and Kristín have different academic backgrounds; folkloristics, sociology and music which is useful to the project. They have started a company called Jaðarmiðlun Ltd. around the show called "The hidden world - interactive experience exhibition on elves and other mythical creatures."

"This as been a lot of work,  and also very rewarding. In just over a year the project has developed from being a school assignment, that could easily have been forgotten in a folder on the computer, to starting our own company, going through Startup Tourism, applying for a number of grants and now hiring designers to join us. None of this would have happened if this group, put randomly together by the lecturer, hadn't clicked and had this passion for creating a hidden world together," says Svanhvít. The project has received several grants and came second in the University of Iceland's Applied Science Prize in the autumn of 2016. Svanhvít emphasizes that everyone they approach with this project have encouraged them and helped; both the teaching staff and others.

The work on the exhibition has consisted in creating a script for virtual reality from Icelandic folklore, thus giving them a new life. The foursome  say they want to communicate the tales in a diverse manner whilst building on research. "Virtual reality and the ability to see into the world of elves and hidden people have a lot in common in many ways. There is a common theme in flolkore that you can brush a pebble over your eye and thus attain the ability to see elves. The virtual reality glasses also provide the eye with something new and exotic. This was the basic idea for the exhibition," explains Kristín.

When asked they say they have yet to procure facilities for the exhibition. "We are, however, working hard on development with two amazing designers who we were able to hire with grants we were allocated. The prize money from the University of Iceland's Applied Science Prize will be very useful for the next phase. There is a way to go yet but this is an exciting journey," says Sólrún.

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