From Wednesday through Friday, in the middle of Digital Worlds’ (DW) ORC, a round, red chair spun in circles. The Voyager, the world’s first full-motion cinematic VR chair, was available for students and staff to try.
The company’s VP of business development, Nathan Nazario, said that the length of the immersive experience provided varies with each piece of media.
“We have some that are three minutes and some as long as 11 minutes,” Nazario said. “Including a collaboration with Universal Pictures themed around their film The Mummy titled The Mummy Zero Gravity VR Experience.”
The chair is the first of its kind and has gone international since its creation with showings everywhere from Las Vegas and New York to Paris and Russia. The goal is to one day place them in movie theatres around the world for an immersive viewing of theatre-length films.
“It’s been a very fun experience to collaborate with content creators who want to deepen the experience for their viewers,” Nazario said. “It strengthens the narrative.”
And for three days, it strengthened the narrative of DW. In 10-minute turns, deans, professors and students alike sat in the red velvet dome and strapped the VR goggles to their heads. Straps extended around the sides and over the top of heads, and Nazario placed noise-canceling headphones over their ears.
As the short films play, the chair rotates, tilts and leans to show the viewer specific angles and pieces of the film within the goggles. During a nature-inspired film, the chair tilts backwards as the camera pans up, giving a feeling of weightlessness.
“It was so impressive,” said DW Professor Kyle Bohunicky. “I’m fascinated by it.”
Bohunicky teaches digital storytelling, and he told Nazario that Voyager brings so much more emotion and experience to the story being told.
“We can talk more (in class) about bodily sensation and story,” Bohunicky said. “How far do you want to push your audience experience?”
The base of the chair has a small footprint, said Nazario, but needs a six square-foot area on all sides because of the angles to which it tilts.
The films are mostly short films used for branding or marketing, but the company is moving into research pieces and cinema films like The Mummy. At the SXSW film festival in March, the Universal work was shown to 20 people in 20 chairs – at the same time.
It will take a while for theaters to transition, but VR, Nazario said, is the future.
“We’re really excited about what’s going on here at DW and the focus on AR and VR,” he said. “There needs to be a push toward this in education as a whole, so what James (Oliverio) is doing here is very forward thinking.”
Want to see the chair in action? Check out a video here: https://vimeo.com/244080068