Future of Storytelling, Part 4

By now the space was buzzing with people and activity. On a platform in the center of the venue, a pianist played for us. It felt like I was in a science fiction carnival show. There was a lack of design to the space, a rawness that was ugly. Only when you stepped into a virtual experience did design begin to matter.

I noticed a quiet room hidden off to one corner. The space gave an impression that it held nothing interesting, which I’m sure contributed to its being empty. I went in and saw a few comfortable looking leather chairs. On one of them was a Samsung Gear head set. I put it on and was pleasantly surprised to see it was running Notes on Blindness.

I had heard of this title because in 2013 the New York Times created an Op Doc and article feature with the same name about writer and theologian John Hull. In 1983, John Hull lost his vision just before the birth of his second child. He documented the first few years of his journey into blindness by keeping a voice journal recorded on tape. Those tapes were the inspiration for this and even a feature length documentary.

I sat in the leather chair and put the headset on. Notes on Blindness VR was immediately intimate. As John Hull’s voice describes the wind blowing through tree branches, we see small particles of light floating on a breeze illuminate an invisible tree. Their collision cause tiny sparks which form an outline of what is hidden, much like bioluminescent plankton in water moving around your fingers.

Notes on Blindness completely pulled me in. It was not the technology which enraptured me, but the story. More than once I closed my eyes to focus on John Hull’s unforgettable voice. The visuals, however minimal, were distracting from his vivid descriptions. Eventually, a FOST FEST volunteer told me my time was up because someone else was waiting.

Notes on Blindness left an impression that stayed with me a few days. As a father, I felt a specific connection to John Hull. Not being able to see my son was a haunting thought. To only know my boy was around by hearing him meant he would vanish when his sounds stopped.

If virtual reality is going to make a connection with the general public, applications like Notes on Blindness are going to be what does it. As I sat in that leather chair, I was absorbed completely. I left the experience thinking about my own life, my own family. I felt a level of empathy I could not have reached had I not been completely immersed in VR.

+ There are no comments

Add yours