To Immerse or Not Immerse: Designing VR

To Immerse or Not Immerse: Designing VR

(Photo: Brainstorming VR models for “Shockwaves” with illustrator/game designer Matt Moores and NYU videogame designer Clara Fernandez, NYC Interactive Fiction at ITP/NYU. May 8, 2015)  May 10, 2015: Virtual reality (“VR”) as we know it today first emerged in the 1950s and ‘60s. For an engaging oral history of VR, visit “Voices from a Virtual Past” published by The Verge. In the 1990s, we studied VR at the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at New York University. Coding in VRML and Java 3D – skills now deemed “useless” by VR pioneer Jaron Lanier – graduate students donned clunky Darth Vader headsets and fretted about roll, pitch and yaw – i.e. how things fly. Fifteen years later and you can create VR with a smart phone, free software and a cardboard headset. As VR hardware comes of age, VR gear makers face the pressing issue of content. Where is it? What is it? Meanwhile content creators grapple with the language of a new medium. Producing cinematic VR involves a workflow similar to that of a film, albeit you shoot with multiple cameras to capture a 360-degree panorama, and then stitch the footage. While this process can be complicated, what happens when you add narrative/story and interactivity? How to design VR content? We pose this as a question because no one knows the answers yet. It’s still too early in the development of this new medium to be rubberstamping a process that requires discovery, experimentation and a boatload of failures. However, we can tap on other mature disciplines, such as games, interactive theatre, performance and digital art, film, and even architecture, to...