Future of Storytelling, Part 2

As I walked around FOST FEST looking for my next stop, it struck me how ridiculous VR rigs make everyone look. The sight reminded me of monochromatic photographs I’ve seen of early aviators strapped to absurd mechanics. How pathetic those pioneers of aviation look to us today. All that gear, all that effort and only a few got to fly. Today, they look like nutty professors. As does anyone with a VR rig on their face.

A virtual reality user is no pioneer. The role you play is physically passive. When the session is done and the equipment comes off, you are still in the same place you began. Your life was never in danger. Only your feelings are real. A virtual reality session focuses you on an emotional experience. By being put in another’s shoes, or more specifically, feeling like you are in another’s shoes, you are for a moment someone else. You are transformed.

Having felt a unique sense of community with Flock, I was exited for whatever came next. I walked over to an area where five strangers sat, each in their own world. I waited my turn.

Everyone was holding a Google Cardboard to their face which contained a smartphone inside. I asked the station’s host what they were viewing and she said it was a Google created VR story called Pearl. The first person to finish lowered his Google Cardboard to his chest and had misty eyes. “That was fantastic,” he said. “I cried a little bit.” The host replied, “Thank you. We have been getting that reaction a lot.” Intrigued, I took his place and put the cardboard to my face. 

I found myself in an appealingly cartoon-styled abandoned car. I was a confused. Am I supposed to do something? Is anything going to happen? I could hear birds chirping outside. After a long time, which was actually about 20 seconds, a 3D animated girl comes into the car with me.

Our shared space seems familiar to her. She finds a stuffed animal and warmly hugs it as if they had been separated a long time. She picks up a tape recorder which still has a tape in it. She presses play and begins a journey through her memories.

I would never, ever think of ruining the experience for you, so I suggest you try it yourself. Pearl is available in the App Store or Google Play via their Stories app. Recently, Pearl was nominated for an Oscar in the best animated short category making it the first virtual reality animation to receive this honor. You don’t need a Google Cardboard to watch it, but definitely view it with headphones. Trust me.


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