The Interactive & Immersive HQ

What Is Immersive Art with TouchDesigner?

Technology, creativity, and the art world are merging like never before. Gone are the days of only being able to see art in art galleries. Immersive art is on the rise, which is turning traditional art into a multi-sensory experience that draws people in and captivates them.

TouchDesigner is a node-based visual programming environment created by Toronto-based company Derivative, and in recent years has grown into a top-notch tool for immersive art and interactive installations. In this post, we’ll explore what immersive art is, and how TouchDesigner can be utilized for this and other immersive experiences.

What is Immersive Art?

Immersive art is a type of creative expression that fully involves the viewer, either in person or through virtual means. What makes immersive art experiences special is the ability to create a carefully designed, multi-sensory environment, and encourage visitors to take part in creating the art. These installations often combine visual elements with sounds, touch, vibrations, or even smells to enhance the overall immersive experience.

Immersive art installations fully surround the viewer, turning them from a passive observer into an active participant (a popular one you’ve probably heard of is the Van Gogh Starry Night Immersive Experience).

This type of art engages the senses and draws the viewer into the artwork, and has become very popular since the early 2000s, thanks to advancements in technology, with exhibitions appearing worldwide.

To see how immersive art stacks up against traditional galleries, consider teamLab, an art collective from Tokyo. Their Borderless museum became the world’s most visited single-artist museum in 2019, drawing 2.3 million visitors from over 160 countries in its first year.

What is TouchDesigner?

As we mentioned before, TouchDesigner is a node-based programming platform, however, it isn’t the go-to for web design, gaming, or intricate 3D modelling. Instead, it shines when crafting interactive, real-world-linked multimedia experiences.

The platform is an amazing tool if you want to create performances, installations or fixed media works that involve controlling various devices and media seamlessly.

You’ll want to learn and use TouchDesigner if you’re into real-time compositing, dynamic graphics, or translating music into vibrant 3D scenes and animations.

How TouchDesigner Enhances Immersive Art

You can capture data from all kinds of devices into TouchDesigner in real-time, so it’s the perfect environment for connecting diverse devices and ideas, and merging different software and hardware seamlessly.

TouchDesigner has so many different pipelines and features built in to cover everything from rendering and compositing, video/audio in and out, multi-display support, animation key-framing and control channels, scripting and programming with Python or C++, and hardware and software interoperability with all the major input devices being used professionally.

The possibilities truly are endless for what you can create with TouchDesigner, from an interactive experience, to immersive art installations, to virtual reality.

Get Our 7 Core TouchDesigner Templates, FREE

We’re making our 7 core project file templates available – for free.

These templates shed light into the most useful and sometimes obtuse features of TouchDesigner.

They’re designed to be immediately applicable for the complete TouchDesigner beginner, while also providing inspiration for the advanced user.

Examples of Immersive Art with TouchDesigner

Getty Museum Installation

Woodbury’s Applied Computer Science – Media Arts program created an installation using TouchDesigner for the Getty Museum’s College Night event.

The immersive art project involved using TouchDesigner and machine learning to create real-time interactive visuals based on users’ facial expressions and behaviours. The installation analyzed data like age, gender, and emotion to generate unique animations and text descriptions using AI, with content displayed on a three-screen video wall.

NOMAD live

In this project, Tundra uses TouchDesigner to align and synchronize laser projections with generative video animations on the same screen. This setup functions as a live instrument, allowing real-time performances alongside live music, rather than a pre-recorded show.

Créatures at SAT

Vincent Houze, known for his expertise in GLSL shaders within the TouchDesigner community, created this immersive installation with Dave and Gabe, who specialize in spatial audio and immersive experiences.

Créatures premiered at SAT’s Satosphere in Montreal, and features algorithmic landscapes and creatures inspired by natural life forms. Using TouchDesigner, the installation integrates real-time graphics and spatial sound, with visuals and sounds interacting dynamically. The project includes GLSL particle systems, physical simulations, and custom shaders, creating a seamless, immersive experience of semi-abstract ecosystems.

Photo by Sébastien Roy

Getting Started with TouchDesigner for Immersive Art

For self learning and personal projects, you can use TouchDesigner for free (you can download the software directly from the Derivative site).

If you’ve decided that you want to learn TouchDesigner, the best place to start is our free TouchDesigner Tutorial Series. In this crash course, I teach you all the basics of how to use TouchDesigner. It serves as a great starting point for all the other blogs and tutorials that we have available on our website and YouTube channel.

If you want to take your learning to the next level, then I recommend you join our training platform, The HQ PRO.

Wrap Up

Immersive art is a fascinating new art experience and form of creative expression that people can engage with all over the world, either in-person or through virtual means.

After the long lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are eager to explore, and immersive art experiences are leading the way and gaining momentum. By 2030, the immersive entertainment market worldwide is estimated to be worth more than $400 billion, so it’s very exciting to see how immersive art will expand in the future.

TouchDesigner is an amazing node-based programming environment, and an excellent choice to create immersive art, either for your own personal use, or larger scale projects. Be sure to check out all the TouchDesigner resources we have available here on The Interactive & Immersive HQ website!