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VR 101: 20 GREAT VR PROJECTS (WITH LINKS)

In 2015, the most frequent question we heard was, “how do the economics of OTT work?” 

In 2016, the most popular question was, “is the hype around VR justified?” When we answered “yes,” the inevitable next question was, “what VR projects should I look at first?”

We’re updating our 2016 White Paper now; it will be ready in April. Till then, here’s a subjective list of ten places to start, with links to each.

 

ALLUMETTE

Studio: Penrose Studios

Dir. Eugene Chung

“Six degrees of freedom is huge. It adds so much to what we call ‘presence,’ which in many ways is the holy grail of virtual reality. How do we move and think in this medium? Allumette is about thinking natively in virtual reality.” —Eugene Chung

 

Allumette brings viewers into a magical city in the clouds — Dr. Seuss meets Cirque de Soleil. We wind through its street, following a little girl named Allumette and her mother.  The navigation-driven story uses the power of room-scale VR beautifully. Allumette elevates the platform with one of the first truly original cinematic VR experiences.

To see a 2D clip, click here

Available from: Viveport, Steam, Oculus Store

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CLOUDS OVER SIDRA

Studio: Within

Directors: Gabo Arora, Chris Milk

 “By leveraging breakthrough technologies such as virtual reality, we can create solidarity with those who are normally excluded and overlooked, amplifying their voices and explaining their situations.”  —Gabo Arora

The groundbreaking Clouds Over Sidra was one of the first projects to prove VR’s power as an “ultimate empathy machine,” and a potential agent of social change. Sidra brings viewers into the world of a 12-year old girl named Sidra, who guides the audience through her temporary home: the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. 

Sidra helped UNICEF double its donation rate; after one screening, the UN’s Humanitarian Pledging Conference in Kuwait raised $3.8 billion—nearly twice the projected revenues.

To see a 2D clip, click here 

Available from: Within app, YouTube 360

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DEAR ANGELICA

Studio: Oculus Story Studio

Director: Saschka Unseld

“It should feel like a lucid dream in that way that things appear and disappear in a nearly effortless way. We can use that to basically string up these narrative moments.” —Saschka Unseld

2017’s Dear Angelica is another breakthrough: an experience created from inside VR space, rather than outside of it. Angelica was authored in Oculus’ Quill, a tool that allows developers and artists to create experiences while they are moving through the very space that the audience will occupy.

 Dear Angelica occurs in the world of a young woman named Jessica — a boundless, abstract world, filled with painterly 3D shapes. Music and Angelica’s voice (Geena Davis) fill out the world of the grieving daughter, as we walk through her memories of her mom— witnessing fragments of the story, and of Angelica’s memories, in a story painted in space and sound. 

To see a 2D clip, click here 

Available from: Oculus Store

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GNOMES AND GOBLINS

Studio: Wevr

Director: Jon Favreau

“Don’t be afraid to explore and look and try different things and look everywhere. Even if you do it through once, do it again.” Jon Favreau

A magical combination of VR and game play, Gnomes and Goblins sets players in the middle of an interactive enchanted forest, teeming with fireflies, tiny cottages, and rope bridges. You explore the village, and build playful relationships with creatures along the way. Gnomes suss you out, walk up to you, maintain eye contact, and toss you magical objects. You can ring a bell to awaken more fireflies, play fetch, or open windows.

To see a 2D clip, click here

Preview available from: Viveport, Steam

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HENRY

Studio: Oculus Story Studio

Director:  Romero Lopez Dau

“When we set out to make Henry, it was a step into the unknown world of making an emotional VR movie.” — Ramiro Lopez Dau 

Henry transports the viewer into the magical homes of an adorable hedgehog named Henry—as the lone guest at his birthday party. Oculus’ positional and eye tracking enable Henry to look at you beseechingly… till you forget that you’re looking at an illusion, not a living breathing creature. It won an Emmy in 2016.

To see a 2D clip, click here

Available from: Oculus Store

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LIFE OF US

Studio: Within

Directors: Aaron Koblin, Chris Milk

“For some reason, humans have this funny thing about where we came from – it always has far more emotional weight than where we are.”  —Chris Milk

Like Dear AngelicaLife of Us premiered a few weeks ago at Sundance. The seven-minute piece consists of scenes from across time and space, comprising what studio Within refers to as “the complete story of life on Earth.”

 Life of Us is a highly interactive, social VR experience that toes the line between game and narrative. Up to four people can experience evolution together, evolving from single-celled organisms, fish, dinosaurs, apes, and more. 

To see a 2D clip, click here

Not available yet 

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THE MARTIAN VR EXPERIENCE

Studio: The Virtual Reality Company

Director: Robert Stromberg (based on Ridley Scott’s feature film)

“A new medium gives opportunities to new artists, and we are cultivating that. We don’t see virtual reality as a marketing tool — we see it as a new way to visualize entertainment.” —Ted Schilowitz, FOX Innovation Lab

The Martian VR Experience was created as a supplement to 20th Century Fox’s The Martian. The viewer sees Mars through stranded Earthling Mark Whatney’s eyes… and must figure out how to get back to Earth.

As you sort your food, plant a flag, and operate a rover, crane, and rocket, the interactions deepen the experience, and heighten the sense of presence.

 

To see a 2D clip, click here

Available from: Oculus Store, Steam

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  Pearl

Studio: Google Spotlight Stories

Director: Patrick Osborne

“[VR is] a visual medium, that’s how we want to communicate… You’re trying to touch people with your artwork. —Patrick Osborne 

Pearl takes place in one car over twenty years. The viewer is in the passenger seat, as the landscape changes and characters grow. Without dialogue, it tells the story of a father and a daughter as she grows up. Distributed in both 360 and 2D, Pearl is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short

To see a 2D clip, click here

Available from: Viveport, YouTube 360, Google Play

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 TILT BRUSH

Studio: Google

Directors: Patrick Hackett and Drew Skillman

When I left Disney in 2012, I told them it was because I know there’s something new coming… “The goal [of Tilt Brush is] to animate not on paper but in space,” he said.  —Legendary Disney animator Glen Keane

Google’s Tilt Brush may be VR’s “killer app” thus far—allowing users to create and interact with their art in actual 3D space. It received a Proto Award for Best Graphical User Interface, and a Unity Award for Best VR Experience. Tilt Brush marked one of the first steps in making native animation tools mainstream and also recently incorporated multi-user, collaborative abilities. It paved the way for others such as Oculus’ Medium and Quill. 

 To see a 2D clip, click here

Available from: Steam, Oculus Store

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THE WALK VR

Studio: CreateVR

Director: Rob Silva

“Once consumers have had a VR experience based around a specific project or brand— they are invested— they’ve had a personal experience and their relationships with the material is forever changed.” —David Stern, Owner/Founder, CreateVR

A (relative) oldie but goodie, The Walk VR was created as a marketing extension of Sony’s Joe Gordon Levitt feature The Walk, by Create Advertising. In it, the user relives Philippe Petit’s terrifying walk between the two World Trade Towers.

When CreateVR originally demoed The Walk, they added haptic elements: a cut hose on the floor to simulate the wire, and a fan to simulate wind.  As a result, at least 30% of viewers just could not bring themselves to walk the walk. To see why, watch the clip below. 

 

To see a 2D clip, click here

Available from: Google Play, Steam

OTHER GREAT TITLES

  1. ADR1FT, Three One Zero | here
  2. After Solitary, Emblematic Group/Frontline PBS here
  3. Dreams of “O”, Cirque de Soleil | Felix and Paul Studios here
  4. Halcyon, SyFy, Secret Location | here
  5. Mr. Robot VR, Here Be Dragons | here
  6. My Brother’s Keeper, PBS Digital Studios | here
  7. Old Friend, Wevr | here
  8. Project Syria, Emblematic Group | here
  9. Sleepy Hollow Experience, Secret Location | here
  10.  Eve: Valkyrie, CCP Games | here

And for a nice take on the historical significance of this moment in the space, see Jon Favreau’s comments at this years Lumiere Awards here.

Bryce Paul