Oculus Is Working on Documentaries to Expand the Use of VR Beyond Games
Virtual reality (VR) can amaze the viewers. It can also touch their emotions but only in the right hands. One good example is the virtual reality documentary Notes on Blindness: Into the Darkness, which transfers the users into the mind of the late writer-theologian John Hull as he loses his vision—proving that using VR beyond games is something possible.
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Combining Hull’s voice with the abstract and computer-generated images, the documentary Notes on Blindness, which is broken into a series of short videos, lets viewers feel Hull’s joy as he listens to the angelic voices of the church choir and his heartbreak as he learns that his eyes are now only able to see the faces of the singers as indistinguishable points of light.
Notes on Blindness is only one of the many virtual reality documentaries and games that Oculus VR is going to highlight this week as their way of proving that VR beyond games is feasible—that virtual reality can become the next huge medium for storytelling.
Max Cohen, the vice president of mobile for Oculus VR, said, “Think about kids learning five, ten, fifteen years from now. They’re not going to be using textbooks when they can experience firsthand what these people went through.”
In the recent month, Oculus started shipping Oculus Rift, a high-end virtual reality headset that uses a powerful PC to operate. But it has been about six months since Samsung first released its Gear VR—developed with Oculus—which allows users to view VR videos from the latest model of Samsung tablet or smartphone.
Recently, Oculus said that over a million people used Gear VR in the past month to view games, live shows, and other big events.
Discovery Channel is also releasing the short virtual reality versions of its Deadliest Catch reality TV series, which tells the story of a fishing crew in the Bering Sea. And Oculus also plans to bring a new home page for Gear VR users, and it will also showcase the docu Notes on Blindness: Into the Darkness, although it won’t be free.
Oculus showed the documentaries to its reporters. In particular, the documentary Notes on Blindness, which debuted at Sundance Film Festival, shows the virtual reality’s potential as a storytelling medium in the best light.
Notes on Blindness follows the story Hull, a British theologian and writer who developed cataracts as a teenager and later became completely blind. As he lost his vision, he documented the happenings in his life, describing in details every event.
In the video, you can hear Hull’s recording while you watch the events unfold through recreated scenes that were made using computer-generated animation. Through virtual reality, you will find yourself sitting on a virtual bench in a park as Hull describes the scene, the sound of the kids’ playful laughter as they enjoy their time in the park and the sound of the wind as it blows through trees.
However, those images are only shown as blurry forms, and the park becomes thousands of points of light. But you as the viewer become intensely conscious of the sounds, and you sympathize with the Hull as he both rejoices his other senses while lamenting the loss of one.
This summer, the VR documentary Notes on Blindness will be released in advance of a regular feature film by screenwriters and filmmakers James Spinney and Peter Middleton.