Happy guy is sitting at home and doing scuba diving using head-mounted device for virtual reality.

VR and AR and Avatars Oh My!

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I had the privilege of attending the 3rd Annual Italian Contemporary Film Festival (ICFF) Industry Day (www.icffindustry.com). The event was held on Stage 10 at the Pinewood Toronto Studios, home of Sheridan College’s Screen Industries Research and Training Centre (SIRT) and was a day-long opportunity to go hands-on with the latest and greatest offerings in Virtual / Augmented Reality technology while speaking to representatives from some of the most innovative companies in the filmmaking industry.
Like a kid in a candy store, I hopped from one exhibit to the next, anxious to see the potential storytelling applicability of these new technologies – particularly from an event perspective.
Below is a list of some of the day’s standouts:

1) Huffpost RYOT


This one was freaky and more than a little unsettling. A combination of VR technology and the 6 o’clock news, RYOT allows its users to experience stories by, quite literally, jumping “into” them. Upon donning the VR headset used for my demo, I was immediately dropped in the middle of a deadly firefight in Aleppo, Syria. The cold narration of a British-accented correspondent describing the scene in my ears did little to distract from the stomach-turning sound of sniper fire whizzing by my head or the horrified screams of mothers and children – themselves appearing crouched down beside me as I panned around the 360 degree environment. The next evolution of the news or a hi-tech case of TMI? Not exactly sure but in retrospect, I probably should have chosen their other demo – a story about a melting Arctic glacier.

2) Sheridan Student Project – Outposted


Also showcased at the event were projects from budding VR filmmakers, including Sheridan College student Sarah Overand. Promoting her self-created VR film – an immersive, brightly colored 3D adventure called Outposted, Sarah described the countless hours she invested in creating the roughly 5-minute story. One could easily imagine her witty, breezily paced short as representing the next interactive evolution of Hollywood animated films.

3) Itsme 3d Digital Avatar Booth: The event applications for this one –either in-person or online – are endless. After getting yourself 3D scanned in their self-standing booth, Itsme (www.itsme3d.com) transforms you into a 3D avatar, allowing you to use the finished product on your device, social media platforms or in games. In my case, Itsme sent me a humorous video of my Avatar in various stages of “gettin’ down” which you can see (but can’t unsee 😉 below:


4) Realtra / AIC Movie / Legend VR:
Perhaps the most jaw-dropping moments of my time at ICFF Industry Day came in testing the various VR/AR content produced by the above-mentioned production houses. Their exhibits demonstrated the capabilities of not only the medium itself but of the leading VR/AR hardware on the market including the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s Hololens. In one vertigo-inducing instance, I found myself perched precariously on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Amazonian rainforest; birds soaring by my head as my virtual guide urged me to follow him down a nearby rock face. So real did the experience feel that I found myself actually crouching down on the demo area’s grey padded flooring, grasping wildly at air for a tree or rock (that wasn’t there) to balance from.

VR and AR are no longer fringe technologies. Due to the explosive growth of newly affordable hardware and the popularity of games like Pokemon Go, they are both poised to change the way event producers create experiences. With VR and AR, you can transport attendees just about anywhere and allow them to do just about anything. Combined with their immersive storytelling capabilities, VR and AR can enhance the live-event experience and create truly unique brand experiences.