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Taipei Tech Professor Shares Insight on Award-winning VR Project 'Blue Tears'

Article courtesy of Taiwan News (Content by Stephanie Chiang / Staff Writer)

In an exclusive interview, National Taipei University of Technology (Taipei Tech) Professor Tsao Hsiao-yue (曹筱玥) shares the creative motives and concepts that went into her virtual reality project, “Blue Tears,” which was awarded Best Virtual Reality in the 2022 Los Angeles Film Awards (LAFA).

The title of the project, “Blue Tears,” refers to the bio-luminescence in the ocean caused by glowing phytoplankton, which serves as the creative background of Tsao’s VR work. Tsao, who comes from Matsu, where such a phenomenon occurs seasonally, told Taiwan News that the project was born when she got the idea of using VR technology to capture the beauty of blue tears, combining interactive and immersive experiences with storytelling.

By infusing local history and a message that she wishes to convey to people, Tsao thus crafted a legend about Matsu’s blue tears. She said that the Matsu “Village of Madam” in Matsu got its name because, during the late-Ming and early-Qing dynasties, pirates active in the Taiwan Strait would keep women they kidnapped in the area, which served as an outpost for them.

However, the story of “Blue Tears” does not stop there. As viewers accompany the protagonist on an underwater journey and quest to recover his beloved pearl bracelet in the sea, they discover the bracelet is a gift from his lover, whom he chose to leave behind so he could go work in a faraway land.

Regarding the plot, Tsao said, “Through the protagonist’s journey, I hope to communicate to the audience that sometimes what we need is merely companionship and peace of mind, and that excessive greed leads not only to family disruption but also environmental degradation.”

As the head of Taipei Tech’s Department of Interaction Design and the chair of the school’s Metaverse and Extended Reality (XR) Research Center, Tsao said it is her mission to explore how XR technology can allow audiences to virtually visit places they have never been. “For example, an attendee at a travel fair can experience the mechanisms and course of 'Blue Tears' at the event, and later, when they actually get the chance to go to Matsu while traveling, they can compare their experiences in the metaverse and in real life.”

Tsao added that once the components and 3D modules in “Blue Tears” have been created, the work can be experienced not only through a VR headset but also through projections and other forms of visual media. In this way, VR works can be used in various industries, such as tourism and food.

The production of “Blue Tears” made use of the Industrial Technology Research Institute and Taiwan Creative Content Agency’s 4Dviews technology. Through 4Dview, actors’ performances are documented by a volumetric capture system consisting of 48 4DV-EX-Z cameras and high-sensitivity true color sensors.

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