Now that the world is adjusting to a new-normal Covid world that will involve fewer lockdowns, some of us wonder whether our favorite world (that is, the virtual one) is bound to peter out.
It will depend on a few things. The continuing excellence of virtual nightlife seems to us to be the safest bet, with clubs and bars that are nothing less than excellent already. But a few other observations are in order. VR for the workplace is important, and it needs to be made much, much more user-friendly. If you want us to vacation in VR, we need to be able to read a book on the beach. The broad acceptance of cybershoes that will let us walk around in VR (and hike through the mountains in Daisy’s Shaw’s “Solitude” world)! And while we’ve heard a lot about coming improvements in avatar-realism, not a lot has been said about improving facial expressions. That is, if you scowl, cry, frown, your avatar should not be smiling. We’re not sure how to fix that.
For this week, though, we’ll focus on the future of VR entertainment.
The Future of Movies?
It seems to us that VR has the potential to create a new world for movies, but content creators need to figure out what they want to do to do with the format.
Some visionaries are building theatrical complexes, and see the future of theater in VR. (See our profile of Shu Shu, a few months back.)
Mostly, VR cinema is stuck. While you can watch 3D movies in VR with the whole family (in the Big Screen app, for example), you can watch true immersive VR films only alone, which severely limits their appeal. And VR content producers mostly still feel that immersive VR needs to be a “game.”
For an example, see the progression of the immersive content offered by Baobab Studios. Their Bonfire, from 2019, sounded like an immersive cinematic adventure. With a star turn by Ali Wong, Bonfire is an alien adventure in which the viewer “stars” as Scout 817, exploring an alien world as a possible future home for mankind. But it’s a gimmick; you throw a few logs at aliens, you can’t move around within the static environment, and, depending on which story line you choose, the entire narrative can tie up briefly. Baobab’s subsequent, star-studded Baba Yaga tells the story of a young girl, played by Daisy Ridley, who, accompanied by you (her brother or sister), seeks a cure for her mother (Glenn Close!) from the wicked witch of the forest (Kate Winslet!!). Baba Yaga was a vast improvement over Bonfire; the viewer can move about in the virtual environment, the story is more complex and the visuals, which are more engaging, benefit from multiple scene changes. Still, there are some gimmicky vestiges of gaming, and one unnecessary alternate plotline. And you are unlikely to be moved or to find the whole thing especially compelling. 2021’s Namoo, on the other hand, is a real short film, set in an immersive scene through which you may roam freely, a grassy knoll in which scenes from a man’s life unspool, as a tree grows from a sapling. Directed by Erick Oh, and available for free in Oculus’s animation app, Namoo is not wildly emotional, but it’s beautifully crafted, it’s free of gimmicky gaming tropes, and it’s the perfect theme for VR, which shows what the format may someday become.
And some good movie news this week! Two more episodes of the amazing fantasy-noir VR serial, Lustration, are now available to view for free in Oculus’s animation app. We wrote about this terrific show last month, a creepy, involving story about the earthly world, the afterlife, the in-between, and how we all interact, with direction by Ryan Griffen, from his graphic novel, that discovers new and surprising ways to use the format. The show is only getting more complex, funny, troubling and, above all, vastly promising.
Concert of the Week: Josh Daniel at the Infiniverse Outdoor Cinema Room
Every Wednesday, from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm (EST), at the Infiniverse Outdoor Cinema Room, in Multiverse, free
We’ve written before about the “Infiniverse,” a community that sits within the VR app called “Metaverse.” This app has done so much to design a community of tomorrow in Virtual Reality. with neighborhoods created by members and organized by interest. In response to some demand among members for a more robust nightlife, Metaverse’s Wendy Cummings writes us, “We’ve just started hosting a weekly live music concert. It’s about 2 hours, screened in our Outdoor Cinema Room, and features live music by Josh Daniel.” The Outdoor Cinema Room is decidedly beautiful, and Josh Daniel, who plays what’s described as a combination of roots rock, bluegrass and soul, is the perfect artist for the Infiniverse’s first music residency. Writes Infiniverse organizer and music district founder Andrew Rallo, “The Infiniverse has an uncanny way of revealing to us the musical path and what steps to take next. It’s all about the community, so what the community wants, we’ll deliver.”
The show begins at 6:30 with an opening set by the eclectic Robinson Treacher, and Josh Daniel begins at 7. If you’ve never been there before, drop by the day before so you can be sure you know the way to the Outdoor Cinema Room. The Multiverse/Infiniverse is a big place!
Audere Magazine regularly publishes articles about technology and VR. Read more here.