Make no mistake; when Mathieu Désilets, Salim Lounis, and Jean-Claude Macena talk about hoverboards, they mean Marty McFly—not the electric, rolling, banned-in-New York variety. As students in the Université du Québec à Montréal’s Immersive Environments and Interactivity Course, the trio created HVBRD, an immersive audiovisual installation that takes users into a rose-colored, generative world.
“We’ve always been huge fans of Retrowave and wanted to find an occasion to create a project using its aesthetics,” Désilets tells The Creators Project. “We also chose the hoverboard as a tribute to back to the future, as Marty McFly’s return was in October of last year.”
A player stands on a glowing pink “hoverboard” in the center of the room. On a wide screen a geometric pink world is projected. In the video, the game zooms the player through space, a barren city, and a mountainous terrain full of threatening, floating pink squares and triangles. While the user controls the speed and direction of the visuals, there are no points, and no winning.
“It’s actually not a video game, this is a common misconception for interactive installation. Our installation does not have a goal or keep any score, it’s only meant to be lived as a contemplative piece,” Désilets explains.
To create the installation, the students fit a WiiFit board with a custom top to simulate a skateboard, and lined it with pink LED lights. They learned Touch Designer and Max-MSP, and composed an original score inspired by Retrowave, a synth genre influenced by 80s soundtrack music.
“The programming challenges were pretty great as we had not completely mastered Touch Designer and our generative road proved to be pretty difficult to make. The soundtrack was a big challenge as well because none of us are composers and creating a generative track with no musical experience is pretty hard,” Désilet laments.