Yours Virtually
Prestige Hong Kong|January 2018

Immersive virtual-reality experiences could well be the future of cinema.

Mathew Scott

THE CUTE LITTLE alien seems doomed.

It’s about five minutes into my first virtual-reality (VR) experience and so far I’ve twice walked into a (real) glass wall with my headset on. I’ve also been talking incessantly to myself and to a helpful VR trainer who has strangely fallen silent as I try to work out how to flick a switch that will save this little creature’s life.

And that’s why it seems like he doesn’t stand a chance. My coordination has failed me as I turn to try to help and I hit the (real) wall again – and swear.

Fortunately, out of the blue, another alien appears and takes control, throwing me a look, and what I can only take to be the interplanetary version of, “WTF!” He flicks the switch on the virtual wall in front of me and he makes sure his little mate survives for another screening.

The headset and hand controls are removed. The VR trainer is now laughing – loudly – and I retreat to the nearby coffee lounge to take stock of the whole VR revolution.

Stop waiting. It’s already arrived. The Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) recently hosted what was billed as the largest programme of VR productions yet assembled in Asia – 36 feature films, documentaries and animations.

Step inside, pull on a headset and you can either immerse yourself inside the likes of documentary Under a Cracked Sky – which takes you under Antarctic seas – or experience productions such as Asteroid! that place the viewer inside an  animated universe in which you can help save the life of a cute little alien – or at least try to, depending on your wits and your dexterity.

There are panels of VR-industry experts on hand to chart the future of an industry that estimates suggest will be worth around US$75 billion by 2021.

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