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The Festival of International Virtual and Augmented Reality Stories is bringing the best of emerging “virtual reality narratives” to Toronto on September 19th to the 20th at UG3 Live. Strap on a futuristic headset and break through the fourth wall with experiences that put viewers right in the middle of the action. With each ticket promising a total of 30 minutes with a headset, here are some experiences that will turn VR skeptics into fanatics.
In this experience, viewers will soar through the sky as they look through the eyes of a drone flying over the untouched wilderness of Kamchatka, Russia. Glide over Kurile Lake as hundreds of red salmon swim in its clear mineral waters before being whisked to the Valley of the Geysers. Finally, stare down the molten hearts of Plosky Tolbachik and Klyuchevskaya Sopka, two volcanoes whose eruptions were captured by the drones of AirPano. The feeling of flight in Kamchatka is so convincing, some who’ve tried it say looking down gave them a very real sense of vertigo.
One of the more traditional dramatic experiences on the festival docket, Intimate Strangers still manages to redefine the very concept of cinema as it follows a couple’s debate over whether or not to bring a third person into their relationship. Deeply – even uncomfortably — personal, Intimate Strangers lives up to its name as it takes potential voyeurs into the mysterious and awkward world of other people’s bedrooms. Considering the subject matter, don’t be surprised by brief snippets of nudity and frank discussions about sexuality.
If Intimate Strangers wasn’t intimate enough, try taking a look at what love looks like on a chemical level with LoVR by Immersive. This trippy experience, set to a pulsing score by John Hopkins, traces the neurological activity of a person as they describe the first time they saw their wife. Follow the strand of green light cutting through the darkness as neon boxes detailing the hundred thousand chemical reactions our bodies experience during attraction explode into life. Never before has a science lesson been so exciting or so poetic.
Step into the world of Vincent Van Gogh with this experience that recreates his most famous paintings digitally and allows viewers to explore them at will with simple touch controls. Enter the titular Night Café and experience near-total freedom of movement in a virtual landscape made of swirling watercolors. Look up at The Starry Night or lean over to examine his sunflowers before turning to meet the man himself, as portrayed by his many self-portraits. In addition to the canonical works of one of the greatest painters who ever lived, organizers say many viewers find themselves fascinated with a dog hiding in a corner.
Celebrating its world premiere at FIVARS, MansLaughter puts viewers on the tail of four acquaintances who will do anything to get their hands on their friend’s winning lotto ticket. Each schemer’s story unfolds simultaneously with viewers given the choice to switch among the characters at will, just by turning their heads. Stare straight and see one character’s plot from start to finish, but be prepared to miss the murder happening adjacently. Organizers encourage viewers to visit this one multiple times so they can try to piece together the strands of deceit themselves and get the full picture of this non-linear experience.
Movies, video games, art — our vocabulary simply doesn’t do justice to the kind of sheer visceral experience offered by this new generation of virtual reality. The only way to really understand it is to experience it first-hand, when FIVARS in Toronto arrives on September 19th.
UG3 Live, 77 Peter Street, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 688 8787