The future of virtual reality is still coming into focus, says VR City co-founder Darren Emerson.

Let’s be honest, the future of virtual reality is still unclear. To date the industry has been driven by the technology companies that are making the headsets, software and cameras that can help produce VR.

Huge companies like Google, Facebook, Oculus, Samsung, HTC and Sony have placed large bets that VR is here to stay; that this new medium is not a fad, and not the “next 3D TV”.

The real test of this medium and its success is just beginning.  We have the tools to watch and immerse ourselves in VR, but what the audience is still lacking is a rich breadth of content, formats and experiences that speak to a broad range of demographics. 

This challenge inevitably falls to creators; people that can take these new tools and carve out experiences that will delight, move and excite new audiences.

At VR City, we have been exploring this new medium since 2014; along the way working with broadcasters like the BBC and ITV, leading publishers like the New York Times, some amazing forward thinking brand agencies and have been lucky enough to exhibit our work at international film festivals. 

This journey has involved experimentation, collaboration and has enabled us to hone our craft and, in part, help to write the new language of a medium that is just in its infancy. 

Telling stories is nothing new, but embracing story-telling in VR requires a shift in thinking about how to communicate a narrative. 

At its heart, VR is a spatial medium: the technology we use is not solely focussed on the composition of a frame, but rather the creation of a world in which the audience can feel fully immersed and present. 

This means that as former TV and film practitioners we have had to collaborate with professionals from many other fields, a process of discovery that has enlivened and enriched our ability to connect with audiences. 

Working in an immersive and interactive medium we now challenge ourselves to ask how game design, architecture, theatre, and radio can help us tell our stories, as much as we fall back on the 100 odd years of film and TV craft that is in our DNA.

We have a passion for telling stories in VR.  We believe that we are at the dawn of a medium that will stand apart from TV and film, theatre and games, and will itself add something new and vital to the way the we communicate the human experience. 

Whether it is our film about a survivor of the London bombings (“Witness 360: 7/7”), the story of immigrants locked indefinitely in detention centres (“Indefinite”) or Jude Law taking you on journey through a night of immersive theatre in London (“The Life RX – Lexus”), VR has a power to connect the viewer to the subject matter in way that has rarely been harnessed. 

It is a combination of many elements from other mediums that we love: the isolation and intimacy of reading, the visual intensity associated with films and TV, the interaction of game design, the sonic landscapes of great audio podcasts.  When all these assets fall into place we believe we can create experiences that have an emotionally transformative effect.

The future of VR may still be coming into focus, but we are excited about the road ahead.

Darren Emerson is a VR Director, Co-Founder & CCO of VR City and East City Films.
The VR City app is available for IOS and Android. “Indefinite” can be downloaded from the New York Times VR App.

Staff Reporter

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