New VR tech unveiled at Tribeca Immersive underscores social nature of storytelling
One of the downsides of virtual reality is how isolating it can be. To be sure, there are exceptions, such as multiplayer games and the ability to access remote experiences — say, a real-time tour inside an Egyptian pyramid. But for the most part, you slip on a VR headset and you’re encased inside your own virtual world.
Today New York University’s Future Reality Lab is debuting a new shared XR technology at Tribeca Immersive, part of the Tribeca Film Festival, with the release of a new VR short called “CAVE.” It’s a coming-of-age story told through a new system developed to emphasize the social nature of art, cinema and storytelling.
Abra Williams, a spokesperson for the film’s creators, a new tech startup called Parallux, says researchers at NYU have developed “a new kind of VR technology that allows a fully immersive virtual world to be experienced together by many people in the same location.”
Specifically, a crowd of as many as 30 to 50 audience members in the same venue can see and hear immersive content — as well as one another — from their own point of view in a theater setting. Viewers feel physically present together in these shared worlds, just as they would when attending live theater or a concert, she says.
From the announcement:
Most of today’s XR experiences are designed for an audience of one. Even social AR/VR is limited to just a handful of participants. What results is low throughput, long waits, high costs and often isolated experiences.
But the new tech startup Parallux has figured out how to take AR/VR experiences mainstream & they’re unveiling the new tech at Tribeca. The new XR (mixed reality) technology is capable of bringing collective AR/VR experiences to the masses in a powerfully social way. Is this the future of cinema?
“Unlike traditional 360º VR, our solution provides viewers with a sense of shared holographic immersion,” said Sebastian Herscher, co-founder and CEO of Parallux. “Every audience member feels embodied and physically present in a common story world, just as they would when attending live theater or a concert.”
Created in partnership with NYU’s Future Reality Lab, “CAVE” was designed from the ground up to challenge the status quo of how audiences collectively experience immersive arts and entertainment. During the experience, the audience members are transported back to 10,000 BC, when stories were told around a campfire and the history of our ancestors was written on the walls of caves. There, a young woman named Ayara who struggles to decide whether to accept her role as shaman — her tribe’s only link to the spirit world.
Sounds very cool. Turning these kinds of events into truly shared experiences remains a challenge both on the tech side (I imagine the processing power required is considerable) and on the social side (after all, the VR headsets hide the facial cues that people customarily use to signal their reactions).
Given that I’m in San Francisco, I won’t be able to attend the event, but I’ll be keeping an eye on both Parallux and NYU’s Future Reality Lab as more cutting-edge technologies debut and become adopted by mainstream culture.