Two Harvard University students are revolutionising the way that we use Virtual Reality in entertainment. Connor Doyle and Jamie Herring, the founders of the student group Convrgency and Harvard VR Lab, are mixing traditional film and 360-degree film to create the world’s first mixed reality miniseries.
Virtual Reality has sprung to the forefront of technological innovation in the past year. Since the industry is predicted to be worth $150 billion in only a few years, it is easy to imagine the potential impacts that the technology can have on all varieties of industry. One of these industries is entertainment, film, and media.
At present, companies such as Vrideo, and people such as Chris Milk are leading that industry, creating content that focuses on transporting people to beautiful and otherwise inaccessible locations and times through the VR medium. However, Doyle and Herring do not see the long-term potential in this. “Film and TV’s continuing success,” says Herring, “has been dependent upon people wanting to see things again and again. The same is true of theatre. People want stories to immerse themselves in. VR is the definition of immersion. It shouldn’t be used as a teleport, but as a window. It’s a new way to tell a story by experiencing it.”
Vrinc is Convrgency’s new story. Set in a dystopian reality, not too different from our own, it presents a future where VR has become a means to escape into your own paradise. However, when their reality starts to become virtual, the lines are blurred between what’s real or not. It builds upon the success of Mr Robot, in its realist pretence, but in the rapidly evolving form of VR. Doyle, the director of the project, states, “there seems to be this underlying feeling within society right now that we are losing our grip on our own reality. We’re constantly on our phones, texting more than we are talking, catching Pokemon on the streets… People are unnerved by it. A story where we spend more of our time in the virtual than in the real isn’t a stretch of the imagination at this moment in time.”
The movement between traditional film and 360-degree video in Episode 3 of the miniseries is unprecedented in the VR industry right now. There is a real sense while watching that you suddenly become part of this world that you have been discomforted by in the first part of the miniseries. Doyle and Herring have managed to remove the distance between film and technology by making the technology part of the story. The movement towards VR becomes as necessary as the plot.
Virtual Reality is one of the most exciting evolutions in recent years. With the dropping prices of such products as Samsung Gear and Google Cardboard, VR is becoming increasingly available to consumers who want to be entertained. Competing against the big players of Jaunt, Oculus, Samsung, and Google, Doyle and Herring want to be breaking new ground in film, theatre, and VR.
Focusing on story, Convrgency are creating immersive content that is scalable, insightful, and intriguing. Using their theatre backgrounds, there is a clear sense of audience connection. The beauty of VR is that it’s a theatre for one audience member. You have the front row seat. But Convrgency go one step further and casts the audience as the lead role.
Vrinc is available to watch at vrinc.io and will conclude at the end of September.