Santiago is a multi-sensory virtual reality installation that explores the idea of escapism through psychedelic visuals and music. The experience revolves around a physical sculpture of Santiago, an ancient fish god, that transforms into a living, breathing musical instrument that can be played through touch. The music created by the player affects objects and visualizations in the virtual environment, giving each player the agency to shape his or her experience. The piece is built for the HTC Vive and uses Leap Motion technology, allowing users to move freely around the sculpture and physically interact with Santiago.  

When players first step into the experience, they are greeted by Santiago, a thirteen-eyed fish god who is trapped in an eternal slumber. He is desperate to escape but can only be freed momentarily through the energy absorbed from a player’s touch. Their physical contact with the sculpture launches them into a multi-stage visual music experience with each scene representing a memory from Santiago’s past life. As the piece progresses, players travel through a forgotten underwater cave, a garden of equalizers, an extraterrestrial void, and more. In addition, each stage boasts a unique set of visual and auditory patterns; while touching Santiago’s eyes in the first scene results in changes to the lighting and musical notes being added to the soundtrack, the same action generates fireworks and euro trance tracks in the second scene.


The goal behind Santiago is to use VR, a platform most commonly associated with research simulations and gaming, as an artistic medium to create an immersive experience that is visually, musically, and tactilely stimulating. Music composition, sculpture, painting, and 2D animation — art forms that are not typically associated with VR — are integrated seamlessly to shape the look and feel of the experience. By introducing traditional art forms to VR, artists who are often disconnected from the computer graphics and film-heavy VR community have the opportunity to contribute to this growing medium. Additionally, the music in Santiago serves as the core inspiration for visuals and interactions. We chose to do this because we felt that music is typically considered secondary in films and games. So, in Santiago we really wanted to bring it to the forefront and make it one of the key elements of the experience.


Creative Director: Brenda Chen
Effects Artist: Allison Comrie
Interaction Design: Awu Chen
Lead Programmer: Drew Okenfuss
Technical Artist: Sagar Ramesh
Animator and Rigger: Yimin Zhang
Music and Sound Design: David Deedwania
Concept and Environment Artist: Blake Weber
Texture Artist and Animator: Erika Gomi
Concept Artist and Animator: Hannah Bosnian
Concept Artist and Modeler: Tammu Do

Voice Acting: Geoffrey Long

Faculty Advisors: Mike Patterson, Eric Hanson

Special Thanks: Anshul Pendse, Bethany Sparks, Brian Handy, Dave Zhu, Erica Feldfeber, Gina Chen, Julian Kantor, Kelly Chen, Madeline Landry, Nicholas Pudjarminta, Patrick Bender, Peter Brinson, Philip Chen, Richard Lemarchand, Wei-Wen Feng

Made with the support of the USC Mixed Reality Studio