When VR And Theatre Merge To Win Our Hearts

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When VR And Theatre Merge To Win Our Hearts

The mixture of virtual reality (VR) and theatre is about to create a powerful force of communication for many industries. As brands become aware of the opportunities, both creatively and technically, to win minds VR story-telling is being adopted far and wide. Singaporean estate agents are offering overseas house buyers a chance to explore a property that’s in its planning stages, and the NBA is offering a VR experience of live games for the 2016-17 basketball season.
 
Creatively, the lines have blurred between film, theatre and digital/online story-telling.  We all enjoy content on various platforms online and, in the live environment, multimedia content has been used in productions for years. But VR is going one better - allowing creative teams to get closer and more intimate with the viewer than ever before, using first person and immersive techniques to convey stories in an immediate and compelling way.
 
Drawing on traditional theatre techniques, where  actors work to connect with their audiences and those audiences enjoy a group experience, the latest VR is a shared activity.
 
To excite and engage visitors to Paris Motor Show in October, and tell the story of Jaguar’s return to motor racing, a fully immersive Virtual Reality experience was created.  Each user was positioned in a self-contained racing seat, with steering wheel and headset. HTC Vive and the latest gaming technology was used to transport the user to another reality, with a rumble pack and fans giving the drivers a physical response as the ‘drove’ down the virtual track.  Six people tried the experience at the same time and were able to share their impressions with their own social media following.
 
Technically, it is the new generation of ‘full VR’ headset technology like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift that is pushing the creative theatrical possibilities even further, offering immersion way beyond the widely adopted technology of Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard. In ‘full VR’ the viewer can move around the VR space and be completely immersed within it. They ‘feel’ the story rather than just ‘watching’, as if they were in a real space.
 
It’s easy to predict that, in future, drama programming will become more emotive as audiences are immersed into the different worlds inhabited by the fictional characters, whether past or present, real or fantasy.  The creator of popular TV drama Mr Robot, has released a VR spinoff of the series and has vowed to use VR for his next creative endeavour.
 
The opportunities for education are inspiring, history can take on a whole new dimension, for example, as students are surrounded by important scenes and characters of the past.  And the group activity of any classroom can involve a virtual audience so that hard to reach audiences can access learning and join a class in a completely different part of the world. Of course, for marketing companies and agencies, VR is already becoming a powerful experience to convey new products and brands. But it is important to note the rules of engagement must be observed. To successfully maximise the power that VR can give brand experiences, we must offer content which is relevant and allows the viewer to remain on their own terms.  Brand marketers must avoid the tempting corporate and sales-oriented speak in favour of more playful, exciting, informative, fun content or risk losing the viewer before they’ve even begun.
 
Immersive VR technology is an exciting new journey for us all. It’s a compelling offer – enabling brands emotionally connected story-telling which connects them to their consumer in a powerfully intimate way – transforming their relationships for the future. The technology works best when combined with powerful story telling and expert execution. The limits, to date, are how far we can push the technology, and how many different ways we can think of to use it.

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