The future, of the future, of entertainment (part 3)

In our ongoing coverage of the DevLab and Oculus VR showcase, we have introduced you to projects that are redefining the future of digital media for entertainment, activism, and everything in between.

With over 20 projects presented at the showcase, picking favorites was challenging. See our other two posts here to catch up on our list. Without further ado, here are our final three favorites out of DevLab:

ASSASSIN’S AMNESIA

Created by Spanish filmmaker Julio Medem in collaboration with Madrid and Paris-based production house District Room, Assassin’s Amnesia could possibly be the most expensive VR series ever created (its budget is around $40 million).

The Assassin's Amnesia demo booth.
The Assassin’s Amnesia demo booth.

The planned series will contain 20 episodes, each about 6-8 minutes long, and will tell the story of a 73-year-old convicted murderer who may get a chance at redemption by way of an experimental, near-future interrogation technique.

District Room's Patrick Juarez discusses the project.
District Room’s Patrick Juarez discusses the project.

MORE HOLLYWOOD THAN SILICON VALLEY

Unlike many of the other VR experiences at DevLab, Assassin’s Amnesia provides the closest VR analog to modern filmmaking. Amnesia will be live-action first and foremost, shot with some of the best VR cameras currently on the market. While many of the projects on our list tote potential for a unique experience for each viewer afforded by their open-endedness and interactivity, Assassin’s Amnesia takes a linear, controlled approach to VR narrative. This is not an application which renders your visuals in real time and requires the use of a hefty computer. This means that there may be less interactivity, if included at all, due to the pre-recorded nature of this kind of VR narrative.

With its hefty budget and star power (Penelope Cruz is attached to the project), Assassin’s Amnesia seeks to the blur the line between VR and Hollywood. It may represent the future of blockbuster media. Here’s hoping Amnesia will change cinema for the better (talkies) rather than become a tacky novelty (Smell-O-Vision).

PLAYTHINGS

Playthings creator introduces the project.
Playthings creator introduces the project.

HIT IT

A wonderful, childlike musical sandbox (it literally takes place on a sandy tropical beach), Playthings invites you to whip, smack, spin, and throw its musical ‘instruments’ – which look suspiciously like technicolor hotdogs, gummy bears, and donuts – to your heart’s content. While there are some challenge ‘levels’ to be had, Playthings is no Guitar Hero.

Why is he laughing? Does it have something to do with the rainbow gummi hotdog xylophone behind him? (it does)
Why is he laughing? Does it have something to do with the rainbow gummy hotdog xylophone behind him?

With Playthings there is no expectation regarding how well you actually play, all it asks you to do is let loose and have a good time doing it.

George Michael Brower chatting with an attendee who just played the Playthings demo.
George Michael Brower chatting with an attendee who just played the Playthings demo.

The game’s creator, George Michael Brower, heads up Always and Forever Entertainment, a studio he started about a year ago. Brower has a history of innovation in interactive media; prior to going solo, he was one of a handful of programmers/designers selected for Google’s own innovative project incubator Google Creative Lab.

Brower introduces the Junior Senior collaboration.
Brower introduces the Junior Senior collaboration.

GUMMY BEAR POP

The game doesn’t rely solely on your musical prowess for the soundtrack. Brower enlisted Junior Senior to write original music for the game. (The band’s hit single ‘Move Your Feet’ has 32 million plays on Spotify). Further down the line, Brower plans to release downloadable music packs for the game featuring other musicians lending their skills to your cacophony of candy keys.

Playthings is shaping up to be a pulse pounding, donut smacking good time.

PALE BLUE DOT

Creator Eliza McNitt introduces Pale Blue Dot.
Creator Eliza McNitt introduces Pale Blue Dot.

Humanity has always been fixated on a walk among the stars. To many, space is the final frontier, and while we may not be visiting these galaxies far, far away anytime soon, we can always dream. And dreaming is exactly what Eliza McNitt, creator of Pale Blue Dot, is doing.

A SPACE-TIME ODYSSEY

Inspired, both in title and theme, by the famous Carl Sagan book and quote, Pale Blue Dot asks us to imagine what it might be like when humanity takes its first steps toward colonizing a new world. What would this world look like? How would it be different than our own? McNitt has lofty goals for the project, citing multiple narratives related to different hypothetical ‘worlds’ and even a Mars colony multiplayer experience.

McNitt chatting with fellow DevLab participant Zohar Zfir.
McNitt (middle) chatting with fellow DevLab participant Zohar Kfir (right).

With fictional tales of space exploration becoming a Hollywood mainstay, and increased interest in stories of our actual plans to colonize Mars (see NatGeo’s Mars), it’s unclear if the extra dimension of VR will help McNitt’s own tale stand out of the pack.

The 6,000 viewers used their provided Google virtual reality headsets to transport them into the universe, courtesy of filmmaker Eliza McNitt. (Jill Steinberg photo)
From the Fistful of Stars event in Brooklyn. (photo credit: Jill Steinberg)

McNitt’s previous VR effort, The Hubble Cantata: Fistful of Stars, was performed live with an accompanying orchestra at BRIC: Celebrate Brooklyn, drawing an audience of over 6,000 and becoming the world’s largest communal virtual reality event. The experience blended real NASA space photography into a dizzying cosmic journey and was released as a standalone iOS app to wide acclaim. With Pale Blue Dot, McNitt aims to add something new and special to a well trodden formula.

THE END (FOR NOW)

There you have it! A small sampling of the best VR projects you’ve never heard of coming out of DevLab. We hope to see many of these projects fully funded and coming to a headset near you.