The future, of the future, of entertainment (Part 2)

Last week, KCRW headed up to Facebook HQ to preview the newest VR projects to come out of the first ever showcase between Oculus and DevLab.

If you missed the first post recounting the surreal, nerve-wracking visit to Facebook Headquarters, you also missed the first reveal on KCRW’s biggest VR projects you’ve never heard of. Click here to get up to speed.

MUSEUM OF THE IMPOSSIBLE

When was the last time you went to a museum and thought to yourself, “What beautiful art, I really wish I could get closer to it. Maybe even crawl right in as if I were entering some sort of physics defying, globe-shaped art universe.” Well, rejoice, your incredibly specific art fantasy has somehow become a reality – a virtual reality that is.

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Introducing Museum of the Impossible (MOTI). MOTI is a VR museum experience created to feature and curate interactive art. Not constrained by physical boundaries, MOTI’s construction alone will transcend the modern museum experience.

MOTI was born from a collaboration between two LA-based creators: experimental visual artist/filmmaker Kate Parsons and VR vet/game designer Ben Vance.

OH THE PLACES YOU’LL GO (AND WON’T GO?)

The MOTI experience demoed at DevLab featured a virtual room in the “impossible museum.” This was not four walls and a door. The room initially resembled a sort of abstract art globe. This globe manifested itself as a small sphere floating in front of me. The closer I got, the bigger the globe revealed itself to be. It was as if the globe had turned itself inside out around me. While I started looking from the outside in, I was now apart of the art, sitting in the center of a canvas that had wrapped itself completely around me.

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Attending a VR event? Watch where you walk.

To move from one virtual room to the next you have to physically move in real life (IRL as the kids would say) which can present some painfully awkward interesting interactions with total strangers (see: above GIF). To get to the fourth room I likely would have to push right through the onlookers, and I swear I almost crashed into one of them.

Vance and Parsons present their vision for MOTI.
Vance and Parsons present their vision for MOTI.

This type of VR experience, where the scale of your play space is limited by the scale of the actual room you’re in is called roomscale. This extra layer of physical immersion helps to ground you in your virtual environment, making MOTI’s impossible architecture all the more mind-bending.

You hypothetically won’t need a warehouse sized space to get around in the final version of MOTI, but the duo have yet to reveal how MOTI might be scaled for varying room sizes.

CURATING ARTISTS FOR THE FUTURE

Vance and Parsons will be commissioning 10 original works of art to populate their museum (think virtual reality art installations). Each piece will be created by a single artist, allowing that artist’s unique tone and style to be incorporated in the constantly expanding experience.

Image from MOTI artist and collaborator, Refik Anadol. Infinity Room, 2015. Photo courtesy of refikanadol.com.

MOTI is one of numerous VR projects attempting to rethink the very nature of art itself. While I am not canceling my LACMA membership anytime soon, I look forward to seeing more of MOTI’s innovative take on the modern museum experience. 

FORWARD

Creator Gabriela Arp detailing the routes of the proposed groups of migrators Forward will feature.
Creator Gabriela Arp detailing the routes of the proposed groups of migrators Forward will feature.

While listening to filmmaker Gabriela Arp speak about her project, Forward, I was reminded of this quote from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, “Virtual Reality is the ultimate empathy device – technology’s answer to walking in another person’s shoes.”

An attendee immersed in Arp's Forward demo.
An attendee immersed in Arp’s Forward preview.

With Forward, Arp has created a VR experience that brings audiences unsettlingly close to the plight of marginalized migrants, by allowing them to virtually walk in their shoes as they fled war, famine and other atrocities.

Arp discussing her project with a fellow DevLab creator.
Arp discussing her project with a fellow DevLab creator.

While still seeking funding, Arp has announced partnerships with the VR division of the United Nations (yes, that United Nations) as well as the Spanish Language TV network Univision.

Bringing audiences closer than ever to unfamiliar people and cultures is one of my favorite aspects of VR, and I can’t wait to see how Forward closes that empathy gap.

ICARUS

When Sandberg talked about empathy, she was talking about a VR project called Notes on Blindness. This project told the true story of John Hull, a theologian and writer, who recorded an audio journal documenting what it was like to lose his vision. Sandberg called the project an inspiration for VR creators to dream about what is possible.

The Icarus team discusses their break out hit "Notes on Blindness"
The Icarus team discusses their break-out hit “Notes on Blindness”

THAT’S GONNA LEAVE A MARK

Some of the most impactful VR experiences were ones that presented a scenario from two distinct perspectives. The same exact story told from two very different angles.

Directors Arnaud Colinart, Mike Brett and Steve Jamison, the same team behind Notes on Blindness, are using this tactic to recount some of the most memorable disasters in modern history.

The Icarus demo booth.
The Icarus demo booth.

Titled Icarus, this narrative VR series brings viewers closer than ever to the world’s tragedies, to show the reality behind these unfortunate accidents and how many have lead to some of humanity’s most profound discoveries. 

The Icarus team discusses their concept of the "Icarus Complex"
The Icarus team discusses their concept of the “Icarus Complex”

The first episode of the series explores the destruction of the Hindenburg from the aforementioned varying perspectives. Viewers inhabit the bodies of multiple characters to give an objective, holistic view of the tragedy. This first installment plans to recount the true stories of a cabin boy who narrowly escaped the doomed airship and a photographer on the ground witnessing the fiery inferno.

While many VR creators are looking forward, Icarus asks you to use the medium to take a moment and look back.

HIT ME BABY, ONE MORE TIME

Wednesday we continued our series looking at DevLab and our favorite VR projects to emerge from the showcase.

Expect to soar through space, reclaim lost memories, and whack the friggin’ heck outta stuff. Now who doesn’t like that?

No one, that’s who. Check it here.

Words and Photos by Sean Dellorco and Joey Caroni