Centre Phi's MR Co-prod Takes First Breath At Sundance

Centre Phi's MR Co-prod Takes First Breath At Sundance
January 28, 2020

Breathe offers a fresh take on climate change awareness with a breathing-focused coop experience.


Environmentally-conscious XR is all the rage at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival New Frontier showcase. One such project, a mixed reality experience called Breathe, is offering a new angle on public awareness that uses mixed reality technology and biometric trackers to tug at your heart-strings. 


Breathe is the first MR co-production involving Montréal-based Centre Phi. The environmentally-driven augmented reality journey from Crimes of Curiosity, Centre Phi, and director Diego Galafassi, who is Phi's first artist in residence, is narrated by Beetz, best known for her roles in FX Networks’ Golden Globe-winning series Atlanta, and the Academy Award-nominated DC Comics thriller, Joker. Her voice is guiding participants through the shared experience of reimagining our human relationship to the rest of the living world.


Open now to festival-goers at New Frontier Central, Breathe was a calming presence on the show floor, offering attendees a brief moment of zen among all the madness. Before the experience could begin, we first had to don a Magic Leap One mixed reality headset along with a strap equipped with biometric sensors that tracked our breathing patterns. Once our bodies were properly calibrated to the experience — the developers could track our metrics via an iPad — a mixed reality butterfly appeared within the tented play area, beckoning us to come closer. 


As my three companions and I ventured into the designated space, the air around us burst to life with pulsating clouds consisting of hundreds of thousands of colorful particles. These digital manifestations served as visual representations of our breathing patterns. With the help of our biometric belts, each cloud expanded and shrank in sync with every breath. The result was a serene, peaceful journey showing how each of our breaths, no matter how small, connects to a vast network of living organisms inhabiting our world.


“A lot of my work has been speaking into questions of our relationship, to nature, to everything that is alive on the planet and the fact that we are in a sort of juncture in human history,” said Diego Galafassi, Lead Artist of Breathe while speaking to us. “We have to kind of reassess and reimagine the way we relate to the rest of the living world. And this piece really speaks to that. Climate change is essentially a very radical change in the composition of the air and the air that supports all life as we know it.”

Image Credit: VRScout


“So we are in a really critical moment that we need to rethink the ways in which we have been relating to the atmosphere. Breathe is kind of an attempt to give people an experience about your relationship to the air around you and visualizing that. So from a technological perspective, we’ve developed a breathing sensor that connects to the magic and that was the first sort of biometric sensor that was developed in this platform. I wanted to work around climate change ideas, but not from a scientific perspective. I really tried to get some very intimate stories around that and breathing struck me as a really interesting portal because through breathing you are in this sort of constant relationship with the atmosphere.”


As the experience continued, we continued to discover new ways in which our breathing connects with the Earth as well as each other. We could even manipulate particle clouds using our hands via Magic Leap’s onboard hand-tracking technology.

Image Credit: VRScout


“When I first heard that the exhale, the thing that you’re doing right now, the particles that were just inside your body will travel across the whole world in relative this amount of time, just about two years,” continued  If you go to the Antarctic because there were just so the air travel much more than you will ever do in your life. And that to me, that tells a really interesting story of community connections across not only very long distances but also across time.” 


Galafassi claims Breathe can also serve as a “hyper-local” experience, allowing users to compare the air quality in locations like Los Angeles Australia.


Coming in at around 12-minutes, Breathe is open to Sundance attendees now at New Frontier Central. For more information check out Breathe’s official project page here.

Chatting with the Diego, Lead Artist of Breathe / Image Credit: VRScout


Back for another round of ground-breaking immersive art and entertainment, this year’s New Frontier returns with a new lineup of game-changing projects from some of the industry’s most influential creators. As the festivities continue through the weekend, keep a lookout for more of our live coverage.

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