28 September 2018

Centre-Phi VR Exhibition

Whilst in Montreal I was lucky enough to spend a couple of hours at the newly opened  Echo VR Exhibition at the Centre-Phi in Old Montreal. This show had 12 different VR exhibits, all on the arty/edutainment rather than game side, on a mix of Oculus Rift, Oculus Go and Gear VR headsets.

Whilst a few were 360 (or even 180) degree video, the rest were fully immersive, usually with room scale tracking, or in rotating chairs. Most were around 15 mins, some as short as 4 mins, others as long as 30 minutes.

The most interesting were:

  • Spheres - a set of 3 VR experience about space. All pretty trip and following an "everything is better with tilt-brush" meme. Batting planets was fun - and interesting that if you bat then the wrong way the'd eventually slow and orbit in the correct direction. The huge planet encounters were fun, but what was interesting was since you had no sense of self you had no sense of scale - there were just big balls! It will be interesting to see if we can get a different experience with our World Space Day experiences - more later. See http://www.elizamcnitt.com/spheres/

  • Tales of Wedding Rings - A Japanese combination of manga and anime, all in black and white and very realistic animation (mo-cap, even rotoscope looking). For much of the experience the cartoon/manga frame was in front of your against a black background and you looked through this frame onto the 3D manga still frame or anime scene. You could peer in and round, so it was full 3D. Then for some scenes the frame could come forward and engulf you so that now you were in the full 3D itself with the action taking place in front of you - but with the option of looking all around at the beautifully crafted scenery. The female character was a bit BESM manga style, but technically it was a great looking piece and an interesting possible direction for manga/anime/graphic novel/BD VR. Buy for Oculus at https://www.oculus.com/experiences/rift/1681506908561513/ (and video trailer)

  • Wolves in the Walls - A young girl alone in an attic bedroom can hear wolves in the wall - can you help her? This piece, based on a book by Neil Gaiman,  probably had the best realised virtual character I've seen so far in VR. As you follow her around the small room, crouch down to talk to her or look at what she's drawn it really does feel like your in the room with her. The most notable feature was that when she speaks she always looks at you - no matter where you are standing - I kept try to move to catch her out but never did - awesome response to the headset tracking! It's interesting that Fable, the studio behind this, has kicked off a whole "Lucy Project" to create a character that is interactive and believable. In many ways Lucy is the closest thing I've seen yet to the old Milo "smoke and mirrors" demo from Lionheart - and of course all the more possible because it has digitised the human so everyone is in the same virtual space. You can read more about Wolves in the Walls at https://fable-studio.com/wolves-in-the-walls/ and https://www.oculus.com/blog/vr-visionaries-fable-studio/.

Whilst the video versions wont give you the VR experience they'll give you a sense of what they are doing, and hopefully we'll see some of these multi-VR showcases at arts centres in the UK.

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