A Very Old Mystery in New New York: a live, interactive VR experience
This is one of my most ambitious projects yet, it's ongoing, and still in what I describe as an "experimental" stage. I'm tackling a rather large problem: how to tell compelling fiction stories using Virtual Reality technology. Many have tried, and most have not been successful. The inherent problem is of interactivity: true CGI VR - the kind that allows users to navigate a CGI world, interact with objects, and speak with other users - is all about interactivity. That's the exciting aspect of it: complete immersion within a fully interactive world. However, traditional fiction storytelling is not interactive. If one attempts to tell a non-interactive story inside a totally interactive world, it's not entertaining. But telling an interactive story using traditional techniques of Artificial Intelligence, pre-recorded sound bites, non-human actors who are simply following pre-recorded algorithms does not result in a believable experience. Rather, it's like watching a video game cut scene from inside the game. Amusing perhaps but not emotional on any level.
My theory is that in order to achieve a truly personal, emotional experience inside an interactive VR world, all characters must be performed by actors in real-time. A live, interactive experience. Similar to interactive theater, only inside a CGI VR world.
To my knowledge this has not been attempted. But it's what I have been working on for the past year.
My first experiment was to write, produce and direct a ten minute story. The plot and characters borrowed from classic film noir storytelling: a detective, his partner, a villain, a femme fatale, etc. My audience member was invited to follow along as our characters encountered a scary attack, searched for clues, and tried to unravel the mystery. The audience member (one at a time, since this is all brand new) was allowed to speak, move, and even help solve the crime.
As the story can only be experienced live, with only one audience member at a time, replicating this for a wide audience is impossible. For now, take a tour behind the scenes and try to imagine what I'm creating. Future iterations of this project will include longer stories, more complex interactions, and more audience members.
It's a brave and strange new landscape. The rules are being written every day. We are all fumbling around in the dark. And it's terribly exciting.