Spatial Perception & Concrete Experience

The Center for Spatial Perception & Concrete Experience (SPaCE) is a part of the USC World Building Institute and is housed in the Media Arts + Practice division of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. The Center explores human perception in order to develop new forms of physical, immersive, and environmental “spatial media,” including virtual reality, augmented reality, and beyond. As an artscience research center, and a center of learning and excellence, SPaCE connects partners both inside and outside of USC, including global leaders from academia, industry, and government.

What are “Spatial Perception” and “Concrete Experience”?

“Spatial perception” is a well-established area of psychology and neuroscience investigating how we experience space. “Concrete experience,” a new domain of perceptual research enabled by rapidly-advancing visual technologies, borrows a portmanteau from concrete mathematics’ “blend of CONtinuous and disCRETE” to describe the experience of interacting with a mix of natural and digital elements.


This painting of the Renaissance mathematician Luca Pacioli by Jacopo de’ Barbari is rich in spatial metaphor and is symbolic of the venerable collaboration of artists and scientists toward understanding the structure of experiential space (Baldasso, 2010).

Statement of Ignorance

The concept of SPaCE grew from the unsettling realization that we as a civilization know less about how humans experience space here on earth than we know about the space conceived in mathematical physics and physical cosmology. This deficit of basic knowledge about human spatial experience is felt most acutely within the many professions involved in creation and consumption of immersive experiences, which grow more realistic and pervasive by the day thanks to the explosive development of new visual technologies. Indeed, we believe that progress of these technologies is limited by our ignorance of the “human space” more than by any single technical challenge.