The project immerses participants in discussions about violence and humanity by using VR technology to present interviews with soldiers on opposite sides of conflicts in Israel and Palestine, The Congo and El Salvador.

Two enemies stand face to face, observing each other.

In turn, each of them reveals the reasons behind their decision to go to war. How they came to take up arms to defend their values, their family, their tribe, or their faith—following in the footsteps of their parents and forebears who did the same.

Karim Ben Khelifa's VR Installation 'The Enemy'

Karim Ben Khelifa's VR Installation 'The Enemy'

What exactly do we know about these combatants? What do we really understand about the motives that push human beings to engage in combat—putting themselves at risk of both being killed and of becoming killers themselves? And why continue to fight over the course of several generations? What does freedom look like for these warriors? What is their future?

Israel and Palestine, Congo, El Salvador—of all the conflicts in the world today, these seem to be the ones that most dramatically represent the improbability of those on opposite sides ever identifying with one another.

vlcsnap-2017-05-08-15h19m00s980

An interactive virtual reality exhibition and immersive experience, The Enemy was conceived by photojournalist Karim Ben Khelifa and further developed with MIT Professor D. Fox Harrell during a visiting artist residency hosted by MIT's Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST).

The project immerses participants in discussions about violence and humanity by using VR technology to present interviews with soldiers on opposite sides of conflicts in Israel and Palestine, The Congo and El Salvador.

Using virtual reality headsets, exhibition participants encounter real, 360-degree imaging and recordings of combatants on opposite sides of international conflicts who were interviewed by Ben Khelifa for the project. In their own words, the combatants offer personal perspectives on war, their motivations, suffering, freedom, and the future.

Experiencing 'The Enemy'

Experiencing 'The Enemy'

The project's line producer Fabien Barati describes the experience: "We put users in a large space and equip them with a 'backpack' and a virtual reality headset. After an introductory explanation, users can enter three rooms, each one representing a different conflict. During the experience, users can see each other but cannot interact or collaborate.

"With the help of images and the voice of Karim Ben Khelifa, users are introduced to six fighters, two for each conflict zone. The fighters then arrive in 'flesh and blood' in the room and the users meet them. The fighters actually talk to the users and look at them. Each fighter behaves differently and has a small degree of artificial intelligence, which make him very lifelike. The sense of presence is really powerful. It's like standing in front of a real person."

The backpack itself, Barati explains, contains "a recently released model of the MSI VR One computer. It's extremely powerful—kind of like a gaming computer—and it has beautiful, fluid graphics. What made this computer really work for us was that it runs on battery power, and you can change the battery on the fly. You don't have to turn off the computer to change batteries during the experience. The backpack connects to the user's VR headset and works with a tracking system on surfaces of several hundred square metres.

"Since the computer has to know exactly where the user is in order to send the right image, we use an OptiTrack motion-capture system with the VR headsets. This requires placing a number of infrared cameras in this large space to detect the small positioning balls on the headset. Each user has different ball positions or 'constellations,' which the system can distinguish and pinpoint in space. There is also a server running all of the users' backpacks. It retrieves this detection data in the space and sends it back to each user. It also lets you begin and end the experience, or to restart it if needed."

He notes there were considerable challenges with the project: "Managing the hardware. Motion capture, virtual reality, wireless, multiuser mode… It was a huge challenge! But another challenge was making the fighters seem real—not just in terms of how they looked, but also how they moved. All of the characters in The Enemy are real fighters, and they move just like their subject does in real life. Several graphic designers and animators worked on recreating them from different sources. When we went to the actual combat zones to interview the fighters, we did a lot of photography, photogrammetry, 3D digitization and video. We collected an enormous amount of data in order to achieve extremely accurate results.

Looking Virtual Reality in the Eye

This VR Exhibit Lets You Connect with the Human Side of War

Confront The Enemy in this Virtual Reality Exhibition

Experiencing 'The Enemy'

Experiencing 'The Enemy'

"We learned a lot about the user experience—how to make it more fluid, effective, and appealing," Barati concludes. "We made a ton of adjustments and changes to the entire content and experience. Ninety-five percent of people have a very respectful attitude toward the fighters. Instead of testing the technology to see what it can and cannot do, people listen carefully, as if they were standing in front of a real person. There were even a few users who were quite scared!

"The experience lasts a little over 45 minutes, and when you come out of it, it's important that you've learned something—that you've changed a bit as person and can say something positive about it."

"Ben Khelifa's experience is extremely effective in communicating, without making any pointed statements, the similarities between the men who have labeled each other "enemy," says Coralie Kraft. "Yes, these combatants are fighting for opposing causes—and yet their reasons for fighting are often the same. They're afraid for their families; they want to stop their enemies from harming their children. 

'The Enemy' is a traveling VR exhibit

'The Enemy' is a traveling VR exhibit

Duo-combattants-2-ENG-1

"In one telling moment, after each man describes why they fight their enemy, Ben Khelifa asks, "Can you tell us about the most joyful moment in your life?" One man replies, 'When my daughter as born. When I first held her in my arms." The other says, "The greatest moment in my life was conceiving my daughter.'

Duo-combattants-3-ENG-1

"Hearing stories of love or grief or terror from an individual is a powerful experience. As empathetic beings, we respond to expressions of emotion and body language that are not always communicable via still photographs. In The Enemy, our imaginations don't have to stretch as far—instead of conjuring an image of a nebulous, anonymous 'Israeli soldier,' we have Gilad, a father of two daughters, in front of us, saying 'Even though I'm talking as a fighter and a commander of a combat unit, I have always been driven by a feeling of defense and survival.' Like in a photograph, I can see the ridges between his eyes. Like a video, I can hear his voice. But in The Enemy, the combination—plus the ostensible physicality of his being, flesh and blood—makes me think 'man' rather than 'image.'" To read the full article, click here.

Duo-combattants-1-ENG-1

Related

More than 55 of the 2018 Fall Television and Streaming Series Rely on Blackmagic Design

More than 55 of the 2018 Fall Television and Streaming Series Rely on Blackmagic Design

Blackmagic Design today announced that the company’s production and post products were used to complete many of the fall 2018 season’s new and returning television shows and streaming series. More than 55 shows rely on Blackmagic Design’s digital film cameras; Fusion visual effects (VFX), compositing, 3D and motion graphics software; and DaVinci Resolve editing, color correction, VFX and digital audio software; as well as its switchers, routers, monitors and capture and playback devices.

Luxul_AMS-1208P

Jingle All the Way: Luxul's XMS-1208P Managed Gigabit Switch is Available for All CI Integrators this Holiday Season

Luxul, the leading innovator of IP networking solutions for AV integrators, today announced that it's giving CI integrators the gift of enterprise-level performance at affordable price points this holiday season. It doesn't matter if they've been naughty or nice, the company's XMS-1208P 12-port/18 PoE+ managed Gigabit switch — that delivers high-speed performance while enabling simple network expansion — is now available for all. And to ring in the new year, Luxul will begin shipping its AMS-1816P 18-port/16 PoE+ L2/L3 managed Gigabit switch in early January.

HoverCam_VV1

HoverCam Transforms Classrooms Fit for Future-Ready Students at Val Verde USD

HoverCam, an innovative technology leader in the digital education market, announced that Val Verde Unified School District (USD) in Parris, California, successfully installed HoverCam's Pilot digital teaching stations and CenterStage interactive flat panels (IFPs) in new STEM labs in the elementary schools, with plans for an eventual rollout to the district's middle and high schools. As part of the district's goal to create future-ready students, Val Verde USD chose HoverCam digital education solutions to address the rising challenge of updating classrooms and introducing curriculum with advanced systems that will prepare students for a rapidly changing career landscape.

ScreenShot2018-12-11at2.41.29PM.144822

The Sigma Holiday Sale Is Back!

Nothing makes gift giving as enjoyable as special prices on award-winning Sigma lenses and accessories; get the lens you’ve always craved or surprise a fellow shooter with the perfect present.

Riedel-Ruptly-Vans-3

Global News Agency Ruptly Relies on Riedel's MediorNet and Artist on Board New OB and DSNG Vehicles

Riedel's MediorNet real-time media network and Artist digital matrix intercom are providing the decentralized and redundant signal routing and communications backbone on board two all-new, state-of-the-art OB vehicles for Ruptly, a Berlin-based international news agency. Qvest Media, a world-leading system architect and integrator for the broadcast and media industries, designed and built the new broadcast van and DSNG vehicle.