Thomas Tucker
3D Visualization | Animation | Virtual Reality | Projection Mapping
Associate Professor, Creative Technologies
School of Visual Arts, Virginia Tech


As a visual artist, I use new technologies to make invisible or immaterial subjects visible. I represent unseeable forces, structures, geometries, and histories. My applied research consists of projects ranging from virtual spatial environments, to groundbreaking scientific and historic visualizations, and dynamic interactive artworks. Transdisciplinary, cutting-edge collaborations across art, technology, the humanities, and the sciences drive my practice, and my research contributions reflect this critical centering. My creative achievements also shape and are shaped by my teaching and outreach.

My work as Creative Director for projects pioneering transdisciplinary collaboration provide successful models for integration of art, creative technology, and visualization across numerous research methodologies. In today’s post-disciplinary context, researchers increasingly need creative methodologies and technologies to visualize what they can’t create or represent in a typical university lab or other academic setting. Simultaneously, artists have an unprecedented opportunity to use emerging technologies to intersect in new, meaningful ways with countless research subjects. The consequential partnerships that fuel my practice directly inform my teaching and service. My students grow professionally as part of these research collaborations, and gain new creative research methodologies with each project they are involved in.

In my personal artwork, I visually describe and analyze how unique and impossible structures move in relation to each other and within their environment, and I create aesthetic rules that reject accepted understanding of physics and dimensionality. Audiences encounter these forms in motion through a combination of virtual animated media and physical installation. For example, the Sound Arcade, exhibited at the Smithsonian, consisted of projections onto large-scale objects covered in fabric. Audience members actively participated using electronic wands to manipulate the audio and video being displayed in real time. Another such project was Space Echoes, a fully immersive experience using 3D animations and 3D sound compositions  presented in unison to create an other-worldly experience. The visual animations were projected onto a 16-foot tall, 40-foot wide Cyclorama screen. Audience members wore 3D goggles while listening to 3D musical compositions relayed from an array of 139 speakers, collectively creating a new kind of visual and auditory encounter.

My collaborative projects often integrate both research and education. For example, the VR Dog Project was a VR and AR project designed for clinical education by adding technology to the teaching of veterinary clinical skills to enhance student learning. In the WWI Cave VR Project, we combined ground-penetrating radar, photogrammetry, and laser scanning to create a digital recreation of the above and below ground features of craters, trenches, tunnels and galleries allowing participants to see Vauquois, a small village that was fiercely contested for four years during WWI by the French and Germans, as it has never been seen before. Animation, 360-degree video, and virtual reality tell the story in an immersive educational experience.

In the future I will continue to explore questions at the heart of my research, developing new processes and systems for visualization and sensorial experience, while also grappling with invisible and unseeable histories, subjects, and phenomena. I am also continuing my ambitious research contributions, leading endeavors within major collaborative transdisciplinary projects, and spearheading new kinds of artistic contribution within substantive applied research. I am pushing the limits of technological explorations, and I look forward to furthering these in ways that are meaningful for my community.