FuseBox resident Andy Baker is most frequently found tinkering away in the FuseBox, on a variety of immersive related projects. Not a lot happens in the FuseBox without Andy being involved and with the space currently closed, we thought it would be a good time to sit down and discuss some of the highlights of Andy's time at the FuseBox.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, your background?

I’ve had a lifelong obsession with digital media and content tools, and that’s influenced most of my activities over the years. From what would now be called algorithmic art on a ZX Spectrum through to Unity and VR in the present day I’ve dabbled in CAD, 2D design, digital photography, motion graphics, 3D animation, music production, video editing and immersive.

Jack of all trades and master of none!

I think I was born at precisely the right time to follow all this tech as it developed. If I were any older, then it would have been hard to get my hands on stuff as it was locked away in academia or large institutions. If I were any younger, then I would have missed the original home-computer boom. It’s been like watching a very, very long documentary.

How did you become a FuseBox resident?

You can blame Maf’j Alvarez for that. I’d been deep into web development for many years and wanted a break. I discovered modern VR (thanks to my friend Craig Moore lending me his Oculus DK2) and decided that this was the most exciting new medium I’d come across for a very long time and that I should learn Unity or Unreal, so I could try and make stuff myself.

I had met Maf’j many times in the past when she worked at Aptivate with Alan Jackson, and he mentioned that she was learning Unity so I got in touch and we formed an impromptu support group.

She had her ear to the ground and suggested applying for the Digital Catapult programme. I had a habit of just nodding and saying yes to things. 

I think I even came to the interview without really looking into what it entailed. When we were accepted, I suddenly had to find out what this community I had joined was all about.

What are some of your favourite projects you have worked on at the FuseBox?

Hmmm. Tough one. I’m still very fond of the Haunted Theatre project I did with George, Elly and Koba. It was just a great, quick condensed hack with a creative focus and a result that I was extremely pleased with. Who doesn’t like spooky Victorian psychedelia?

It validated my feelings about how you can produce immersive content quickly and cheaply if you play to the strengths of the medium and aren’t afraid to grab the low-hanging fruit.

But in truth - I don’t have a single favourite project. The great thing about being part of the Fusebox has been the sheer variety and being able to witness and be a part of a vast multitude of things. And of course, that’s also my curse. I’m a sucker for shiny new things, and there have been many temptations to start yet another unfinished experiment. 

(It is, however, a strategy that tends to start paying off over time - you wait for something to come along and pull something out suitable out of your secret stash of experience)

What is the most exciting thing about immersive technology at the moment?

For a long time, I’ve been excited about the more practical uses of VR/XR/AR (or whatever we’re calling it all this month). Creative and content creation tools and social/collaborative environments. And the latter has achieved unexpected relevancy all of a sudden due to recent global events.

Do you ever struggle to get clients and people you meet to understand the value in immersive?

This is the biggest problem with immersive. I used to think all you needed to do was stick a headset on somebody and they would be convinced. That does work to some degree - everyone has that first jaw-dropping moment, and nearly everyone loves it and goes and tells their friends about it.

But it tends to stop there. Finding a way to make it a part of people’s lives, and something they want to invest in or use regularly is much more challenging. And it’s a chicken and egg problem that needs to be solved gradually by pushing forward on all fronts gradually. Improve awareness, improve the tools, improve the content, increase availability, wait for better hardware, rinse and repeat.

Have you got a particularly proud moment of your time at the FuseBox?

Probably when my entire contribution to a Show and Tell was to let people control a digital scan of myself. Never has making myself look stupid brought joy to so many!

Do you think it’s more important to collaborate when using emerging technologies?

Not especially. It’s just easier to see the value of collaboration when everyone is new to something and trying to figure things out at the same time. You can’t just grab a book of a shelf and read up on what to do so you’re forced into playing. And watching other people play.

How do people find out more about you and your work?

Yeah. That’s something I’ve always been rubbish at doing. I marvel at the kind of people that maintain dev blogs and continuously tweet about their ongoing projects. I tend to be too wrapped up in making something, and then I lose interest when I’m on to the next shiny thing. I have to push myself to wrap things up in a form other people can glean any insight from. 

I’m probably most diligent about updating stuff on Github,  but that’s not much use if you’re not a dev.

I’m @andybak on Twitter, and I’ll strive to fill that more with updates about stuff I’m doing and less with silly quips. My polyhedra stuff is up as @andypolyhydra on Instagram and my Youtube channel.There’s been some renewed interest in my very first VR project: Gallery Ghost so hopefully, stay tuned for some news in that department.

And bread and butter web development have started getting interesting again with some very cool geospatial data visualization work I’ve been doing alongside fellow resident Sean. We should have something to show there so keep an eye on https://ixxy.co.uk/ 
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