28th July 2016
On the 24th of June I headed out to Gazelli Art House to discover their VR exhibition, ‘Enter Through the Headset’, an event highlighting the blurred lines between physical and virtual reality.
I didn’t know what to expect when arriving at the gallery but certainly not a completely empty space. Was I at the right place?! I was told by reception the magic was happening on the first floor so up I went. At first sight, I must admit, what a disappointment, there was no one there! Just three screens in a dark room projecting psychedelic images and random scenes onto the walls, as well as a headset sitting in front of a miniature cardboard house. With no one to tell me what to do or what I was about to experience I just popped on the headset and had a look around.
And there is was, as a VR virgin I finally understood what all the fuss was about.
I could not believe what I was experiencing. It took me about 1 minute to figure out how everything worked and about 5 minutes (maybe 3 hours, who knows, I had no notion of time) to watch all the content.
As random at it sounds this is what happened… I walked into a tiny cardboard house which lead me to the middle of a desert where I sat and watched an old movie before a train -coming out of nowhere- almost ran me over! When I finally got back to the house I was able to explore all the paintings on the wall while cardboard schoolgirl was standing behind me laughing… It was quite something.
With headset number 1 done I was really excited for the next experience. How could I have even doubted it wasn’t going to be amazing?!
It took me a while to figure out how headset number 2 worked but I couldn’t wait to discover a new world. Was I disappointed? Meh. Not as impressed as the first one, even though what I saw seemed realistic enough for me to lose my balance a few times in the mind-altering world I was experiencing. Another exhilarating experience but still my vote remained for headset number 1.
I thought it was all over until I noticed a dark room in the corner – as I headed over I saw another headset waiting to be picked up. A staff member finally arrived and I asked if I could try it out “of course you can, this is a bit more a theatrical experience” …yeah ok why not? After asking the guy to promise it wasn’t going to be scary (“hmm no… well it might be scary at some point…”) I was on my way to experience a whole new world (no Aladdin reference intended).
I first had to sit on a chair on a moving platform (in the real world) and hold onto a coin that was placed in the palm of my hands. As I put on the headset I was transported to what can only be described as a video game.
In the virtual world I jumped into a small boat moored on a lake, in a cave. A man, who could only be described as scary (at least that’s how I describe people with white eyes, pale skin and a black robe but feel free to have your own opinion on this), walked on the pontoon towards my boat and sat before me. He took the coin that had previously been placed in my hand (both in the real and virtual world), sat behind me and started to row.
I could feel the small waves and the gentle breeze in my face. All my senses were on alert. I could hear drops of water falling from the stalactites into the water as well as…on my forehead?! As I wiped off the drops falling on my headset I could hear the sound of water rising… Yep, it was coming! I was on my way to a huge waterfall. After a 20 meter drop I arrived in another huge cave. The rower gave me a sign to keep quiet (as if I had been chatting about the latest episode of American Idol all along…). I slowly turned my head to the right to see a huge, three headed dragon dive into the lake, under my boat and rise in front of me.
Now at this point, you can be rational all you want, but you will always have a slight fear that that dragon might actually just burn you with the fire its spitting. Having survived the dragon episode (quite proud), I peacefully ended on another lake, at sunset, in front of an Asian temple as thought nothing had happened. The VR experience was over and taking of the headset I felt I was getting off a Disneyland attraction. Overall the best VR experience of the exhibition, blurring the lines of virtual and reality through a 4D experience.
In my opinion, overall a great VR experience especially for a VR virgin…I can’t wait to try out more and discover more new worlds.
After this experience there is no doubt in my mind that VR is the future of not only video games, but also experiential. VR allows its users to experience a world in 3D, or even 4D, by taking them from reality and offering a virtual world they can navigate themselves through. Offering brands, a great opportunity to show their products and services in a completely new way. Creating immersive and memorable experiences to encourage consideration and influence purchasing decisions.
For more info on VR check out Nicola’s latest blog post: How are brands using interactive and 360-degree video to improve consumer engagement?