Studio Output’s virtual reality (VR) arm Found Studio is about to release its first whole-room experience – not to be mistaken as a game but rather immersive theatre, The Vanishing Act takes you on a journey of discovering the memories of a dead scientist.
The theatrical VR experience follows the premise of an inventor – Professor Pelham – who died in “mysterious circumstances”, leaving behind a device for experiencing other people’s memories.
While walking through the world of the professor, his voice and thoughts play in the background while you – the player – jump in lifts, open doors, pick up objects and look out the window to the snowy, dark outdoors. It’s extremely intuitive and stimulating, so keep your eyes peeled for the experience’s official release date.
Headed up by creative director and partner Marcus Moresby, the studio’s personal project took around eight weeks to complete with in-house and freelance animators (Marcus himself has 15 years experience in the industry). The Vanishing Act is expected to roll out this October (Q4) – and Marcus has got big plans for it.
I tried out the demo, which lasted about 10 minutes (but felt much longer), in Studio Output’s designated VR room inside their new studio.
Using the latest Oculus Rift headset and controllers, whilst attached to the ceiling with a chord, I could walk about the square room with the aide of virtual walls to stop me bumping into them. Attached to the ceiling are four tracking cameras to make the experience possible.
The journey is paved clearly in front of you. Each door will up to new rooms (like the one seen below), which have significance to the scientist, and of which you slowly discover. There’s a lot of freedom for the player to take initiative and walk around, picking up objects as they please with the controllers.
Although the experience has a slightly sinister atmosphere, it’s not to be mistaken as a “horror game”, says Marcus.
Found Studio created the experience to show what could be done with immersive theatre. To showcase it to the public, Marcus envisions a ticketed event in which people enter a hanger and four people can try the experience at one time, before moving into a “debrief” space afterwards for people to talk about the experience.
He’s still working on other interactive, clue-finding elements to add in, but says there is a limit to what people can emotionally handle in virtual reality compared with watching a film.
The Vanishing Act is the first time the studio has created a whole room experience, however its created VR experiences for Havana Club and Brancott Estate where the participant is restricted to a chair. Marcus says soon society will become numb to consuming videos as we know them today, and is looking to see how immersive theatre can bring new entertainment and commercial offerings.
He does admit there are still currently road blocks to democratising VR, such as the price of VR headsets (the Oculus Rift currently sits at £400) making VR inaccessible to the majority, as well as the current inability to track the success of a VR experience closely, like how brands currently do with Facebook likes or YouTube views.
Marcus says it’s important for VR to be placed in a room where participants won’t feel self conscious about people looking at them, and all interactive elements need to work, not just some (like opening drawers and picking up objects) otherwise it breaks the illusion.
For more on immersive content, see how 360 video projections are created, illustrator Chris Haughton’s VR children’s app, or read our explainer on augmented reality.