The Killer App for VR

January 23, 2017

 

I have dabbled with 3D and VR since the early days, but it was never rich enough to capture audiences the way I wanted. VR technology today is a new world. Modern game engines, headsets, sensors, and graphics processors have finally given us the platform to truly immerse the user in an experience that feels real. It is up to the storytellers to put it to good use. I have spent the last six months searching for the perfect VR experience, sampling every VR app I could, and discovered a few gems. Building my favorite scenes from Star Trek and The Shining in VR taught me how exciting it is to be immersed in worlds that only exist in the imagination. I painted a VR picture of the Percy Shelley poem Ozymandias and learned how satisfying it is to extract the images from your mind and make them “real” for others. I even made a VR game where you solve problems with light to indulge the cinematographer in me. All of these experiments helped me understand what was compelling about immersive entertainment and I was ready to try something really big.

 

I knew I wanted to tell a story by putting the audience in the middle of it, and I wanted them to truly feel the thrills, challenges, and victories that make up a great tale, in the same way a great book or movie can touch you and become a part of you. I knew I wasn't able to write that myself so I thought about stories that had stayed with me and one cried out to be turned into VR. It was a story I read as a kid in one of the science fiction magazines my brother and I loved but I couldn't remember the name or author. What I remembered was the scene of a lone, injured starfighter pilot who seeks refuge in a small emergency shelter only to be attacked and trapped by a robot.

 

I tried every search I could think of, but Google produced nothing! Then I found the Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange. It’s an amazing site where hardcore fans post questions and answers.

 

Questions like this:

  • Have the free People of Middle-earth ever used siege engines?

  • Why did Palpatine pick 'Vader' as a name for Anakin?

  • What happened to the rest of the crew from Enterprise-C?

 

​​I posted my recollection of the tale and had my answer in seven minutes (thank you, "drdanger"). The title was Life Hutch written by the great Harlan Ellison. I was then able to track down the original magazine - Epic Illustrated, June 1981 - where I first read it and I knew I had found a great story for virtual reality.​​ ​

 

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