Oculus Rift. These two words have been promising to bring virtual reality to the masses since it blew up on Kickstarter way back in September 2012. More than two years on, and it hasn’t quite got there yet, but a new short film program is showing off its potential.
This week Oculus has been revealing details of their in-house Story Studio, which is a team dedicated to creating VR cinema. This is a different application for the device than gaming or more business oriented uses, instead focussing on immersing audiences into a narrative which responds to them personally.
Trying to create VR cinema is a complicated thing. Viewers are used to a narrative just unfolding, a story progressing without any need for involvement. But that’s a very limited application of immersive virtual reality, so the Story Studio were tasked with looking for new ways to invest the projects with life.
Their first product is Lost – which comes from one of the brains behind Pixar’s The Blue Umbrella – which played before Monsters University in 2013. It’s the tale of a mislaid robotic hand questing for its owner, and the other player in this story is you.
You start in darkness before a pinprick of light which drifts towards you – a firefly. Later audio and audio cues lead you to discover the robotic hand, and then its owner shows up. All of this action takes around 3 minutes to unspool but that’s only if certain things happen – if you look in the right place rather than taking in the scenery. You’re in control and – within reason – you can look wherever you want.
It’s early days for the technology behind Oculus Rift and for the very idea of stories which are interactive. It in a very real way, it’s the beginning of a whole new art form, something which exists between the presentation aspect of a film and the interaction of a game. And as the Rift software and hardware evolves, these worlds are only going to get more and more immersive.
The Oculus Rift headset will be available in a consumer version in the near future, with hopes of a launch in 2015. We’ll bring you more as we get it.
In Short: The virtual reality future might be finally here, as Oculus Rift creates a Story Studio committed to creating narrative shorts