New Orleans’ French Quarter To Get A VR Makeover

New Orleans’ French Quarter To Get A VR Makeover
August 22, 2017

Xiao Xiao, Chinese American from Metairie, is building for New Orleans future. Literally.


The 2005 Isidore Newman valedictorian who holds a doctorate in media arts & sciences from MIT is constructing three interactive experiences for the Historic New Orleans Collection (HNOC) and its 2018 major exhibition, "New Orleans, the Founding Era." The exhibit celebrates the Big Easy's tricentennial. The show will explore the earliest years and people of New Orleans.


Xiao is building virtual reality binoculars that will overlook a historical courtyard in French Quarter. They will show virtual reactions of different scenes from the past. She is also designing and building a virtual "window" in an elevator scene at each floor and then an animated tag mural (word cloud) that will use words related to New Orleans to draw scenes related to the city.


This is not the first project Xiao has done for HNOC. In 2014, she brought "MirrorFugue: Refections of New Orleans Pianists," a P3+installation to HNOC. MirrorFugue is a installation that gives the impression that a virtual reflection is playing a physical piano. In this installation, Xiao recorded famous New Orleans pianists, including Allen Toussaint and Jon Cleary.


In 2013, Xiao gave a talk at Aspen Ideas Festival and met Phyllis Taylor of Tulane Taylor Center. She sponsored Xiao's MirrorFugue exhibit at HNOC. Impressed with the new technologies, HNOC invited Xiao to design the three projects for its tricentennial exhibit.


In 2016, Xiao taught prototyping for music, movement and medicine at Tulane Taylor Center. She held a series of workshops that were intended to introduce Tulane students to research from MIT Lab, as well as to techniques of ideation and prototyping for interactive technologies.


Born in China, Xiao came to the New Orleans area and attended Hynes Charter in New Orleans for grades 3-6 and then completed middle school through high school at Newman. 


Her school years are filled with achievements. 


Among other awards, in 2003 she won overall first place in chemistry and in 2004 she won overall first place in history at the Louisiana State Academic Rally.


She has studied piano since age 4, and won many awards, including being a 2003 state winner in Louisiana Music Teachers Association Rally, and she was the 2004 overall winner of Ursuline Bach Competition.


"Being Chinese American in New Orleans, I've been fortunate to grow up at the intersection of many cultures. Now I would like to connect the artistic culture of New Orleans with the technological culture of MIT," Xiao said.


She has worked in different capacities at MIT Media Lab. In addition, she has published research papers, given talks, installed exhibits, taught classes, and given workshops at different places, including Asia.


In South Korea, Xiao presented "MirrorFugue III: Conjuring the Recorded Pianists," at New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) in Daejeon in 2013. In Japan, Xiao gave two talks including MirrorFugue talk and musical performance. She has done television shows, given talks at forums, and made presentations from Tokyo to China.


As a design consultant/artist, Xiao plans to do projects in New Orleans, across the country, and in Asia. 


Xiao is the daughter of Ke Xiao and Xiaocheng Wu; and granddaughter of Xianda Wu and Yongji Li, who reside in Metairie. They encouraged and supported Xiao to develop her talents and interests, and to pursue her career goals.


"Besides the Chinese traditional culture and values, we applied two principles in our daughter's daily study and life: more encouragement and less restrictions," said Ke Xiao about raising Xiao, their only child.


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