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The Compelling Power Of Virtual Reality Beyond Video Games

The Compelling Power Of Virtual Reality Beyond Video Games

The true potential of Virtual Reality lies outside of Video Games. And it’s great to see Indian developers, artists and creators coming together to unlock this potential, and take steps into bringing previously unexplored and experimental ideas to VR experiences.

NASSCOM Gaming Forum’s Virtual Reality Storytellers Guild 2017 is underway right now, where a total of 6 teams are working on unique ideas, that will be presented as Virtual Reality experiences, be it video, or interactive demonstrations.

Helping and guiding the teams are mentors that NASSCOM has partnered with, including Quicksand – a leading innovation and strategy consultancy (www.quicksand.co.in), UnBox Festival (www.unboxfestival.com), the award winning Crossover Labs UK (http://www.xolabs.co.uk/) and acclaimed producer Phil Harper (imrge.co), to create this exciting programme of collaboration and mentorship under them.

The 6 teams themselves are a mix of game developers, designers, filmmakers, concept artists, sound designers, animators and 3D artists.

The image below shows the various teams, and the names are color-coded to represent their roles.

Pink = Game Developers (Unity/Unreal)
Blue = Concept Artists
Yellow = Storytellers
Fluorescent = Filmmakers
Light Blue =  Sound/Music Production

The first team is working on a project, Being Her, which means to tell the struggles of a woman in dealing with sexual abuse. And this is not sexual abuse that happens away from the public eye, but abuse in their day to day lives. It’s the kind of abuse that others may not even notice, but the victim in question knows and feels the unsolicited looks thrown her way.

The project will be put forth in the form of audio testimonials, with visual imagery setting a complimentary tone. Much of the testimonials come from the women in the teams themselves, and is a fascinating, albeit saddening look into how normalized sexual abuse has become.

The second team’s project is called Patriarchal Puppets, a VR story tackling matters of early and child marriage. The audience is presented with 4 narratives to pick from, and they are told by means of a puppet show. At the end of each narrative, the audience is presented with a choice of how he/she wants to see the story end. It’s a poignant idea, and the subject matter is something more people from our generation need to be aware of.

The third team’s project, EKA, has a more sci-fi aspect to it. They are working with Team Indus. For those who didn’t know, Team Indus is the only Indian team competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. The $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE is a global competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win, a privately funded team must successfully place a robot on the Moon that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth.

Project EKA is working in conjunction with Team Indus in creating a 360 degree film with animation components.

The next team’s project is more in line with a virtual tour or a virtual art gallery. It’s called Menagerie, and the team is building an art gallery using antique art in possession of Priya Paul, who’s the owner of Park Hotels. She has been a collector of arts, and owns a large collection of essential artistic work from early 1800s to the 1960s.

The audience will be able to see and experience that collection of art up close, and this also acts as a virtual tour that can be experienced by the audience. This will also act a model for similar future projects that bring art galleries right to your doorsteps via Virtual Reality tours.

The fifth team is tackling a more sensitive social issue with its project, OK To Talk. The project addresses the struggles of mentally challenged individuals, and attempts to sensitize others of these struggles. The project also aims to make a person struggling with these challenges feel that they are not alone, and that there are others like them going through the same issues.

The overall aim is to enable people to open up and talk about these issues, including depression, and suicidal tendencies, and not let them be stigmatized. The VR experience puts the audience in the shoes of a person with these mental inhibitions. You explore their mental process by listening to their thoughts as they go about their daily lives. In that process you also come across others facing similar challenges, by hearing their thoughts.

The team is using both photogrammetry and artistic vision to bring to life this VR experience. Such an experience could also be used as a form of stimulus by counselors working with kids facing these issues.

The final team’s project, Escape Paintings, is a fascinating attempt to bring to life the lives and works of famous India artists and creators in the form of interactive VR experience. In this current project, the team is portraying the life of S. H. Raza. You embark upon his journey from India to France and back, and see how his art changed over that period.

The sheer amount of ideas coming together here, and the vision behind these projects is awe inspiring. It’s an interesting look into what goes into building a Virtual Reality project, and the possibilities of Virtual Reality beyond just Video Games. I’ve only seen demos for a couple of these projects, but this inside look into how they are being made, how the ideas are being formulated, and how animators, sound designers, concept artists and programmers bring a work into fruition is nothing short of amazing.

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