When the Whale Falls

AR + Interactive Sculptural Installation, UCLA Capstone Project,  Spring 2023

“When the Whale Falls: Beneath the Surface” is an AR meditative installation that incorporates sculpture,  augmented reality techniques (AR), projections and sound. Drawing inspiration from Nietzsche’s concept of eternal return and the natural phenomenon of whale fall, this art project aims to explore the themes of life, death, and the human condition through the recognition of whale fall. 

At the center of the installation is a life-sized life-saver ring and wave projection. In the AR virtual environment, a 3D model of a  37m skeleton of humpback whale is placed and animated, representing birth, growth, decay, and death of life. The immersive experience is enhanced by meditation voiceovers, whale sounds, and the rhythmic waves, inviting viewers to deeply engage with the exhibit.


[Enternal Return / Samsara]
According to the great philosopher Friedrich Nietzshe, existence recurs in an infinite cycle as energy and matter transform over time. In other words, creatures will come back in the form of diverse substance after death, coexisting with the great ecosystem.

[Whale Fall: Pain + Beauty]
A whale fall occurs when the carcass of a whale has fallen onto the deep ocean floor and create complex localized ecosystems that supply sustenance to deep-sea organisms for decades. This process, with its cycle of life, death, and rebirth, mirrors Nietzsche’s concept of eternal return, where life is seen as an eternal recurrence of the same events, repeating infinitely.


To optimize the gallery's limited space, the sculpture will be crafted on a smaller scale. Meanwhile, we'll employ augmented reality (AR) to create a virtual space expansive enough for audiences to interact in real time with a life-sized whale skeleton. This innovative approach ensures an immersive and interactive experience within the constraints of the physical environment.


I crafted and animated models of whales and various sea creatures using Blender, aiming to bring to life a vibrant undersea world. Central to this aquatic tableau is a whale skeleton, which I've designed to be the focal point of the scene. My goal is to transport the viewer from the depths of the ocean directly to the EDA Gallery, recreating an immersive undersea experience that captivates and educates.

[Unity ARCore + Vuforia Plane Detection]

After completing the 3D modeling and animation in Blender, the models were imported into Unity using AR Core Foundation. The Vuforia Plane Detection plugin was employed to enhance immersion within the physical environment and design the sea floor. Utilizing the plugin, I scanned the exhibition space with the camera and imported the map to Vuforia. Subsequently, the Unity App was adapted for iPad interaction during exhibitions.

[ AR User Experience In Exhibition]

Visitors to the exhibition are invited to engage with an interactive AR experience via iPads mounted on pedestals. As they navigate the space, the AR technology is designed to recognize the specific shape of a lifesaver ring within the exhibition area. Upon this detection, the system activates a captivating animated undersea scene, depicting the phenomenon of whale falls.

The AR experience is dynamically tailored to the shape and layout of the space, ensuring that each interaction is unique and immersive. This innovative approach not only enriches the visitor's understanding of the exhibit but also brings a sense of wonder and discovery to the exploration of marine life.

Exhibition Photos


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