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Artificial intelligence is one of the most controversial topics of our time: approval encounters rejection, euphoria encounters fear. What basic assumptions underpin these views?

On the one hand, it is a technological advancement offering support and comfort. On the other hand, a rise in artificial intelligence could pose a threat. How do these different perspectives and points of view compare? Can this field of tension be opened up and processed through a virtual reality experience?

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The experience "paradigm shift" explores a changing relationship between the participant and a virtual assistant similar to Siri or Alexa. The virtual assistant represents an application of artificial intelligence and accompanies the the viewer’s journey through the scenario via a real-time dialogue interface. Over time, the assistant's attitude towards the viewer changes. The degree of control which the assistant transfers to the viewer varies accordingly: free choice turns to manipulation; authority to powerlessness.

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The experience is structured nonlinearly and adapts to the choices of the viewer. During the dialogue, the virtual assistant asks the participant specific questions and the subsequent answers determine the story line and lead to different endings. 

In certain situations, the viewer can control spatial elements with hand gestures by grasping, moving and releasing them. All functionalities are intuitively conveyed in the course of the scenario.

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Immersion is usually described as a feeling of physical presence in a virtual environment. The more the senses are activated, the higher the perception of immersion. In this case, immersion is created primarily through the dialogue, which addresses the viewer personally, asks for preferences as well as opinions, and gives a sense of realism and actuality.

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The piece was part of the exhibition “Sensory Scapes” in Oct 2020 at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien. The exhibition opened up a space for reflections about human existence in virtual worlds as well as sensuality in the digital. Visitors that experienced “paradigm shift” responded to the assistant in a very immediate and observant way. According to their statements, the experience raised questions about their own manipulability and tractability during the dialogue.

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