The Possible: GE Announces Immersive Virtual Reality Documentary Miniseries

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ge-logoWhen it comes to cutting-edge and creative technology, you can be sure that GE will be right there with it; what else would you expect from a company whose motto is “Imagination At Work”? The company has invested well over $1 billion in additive manufacturing technologies and facilities, from Pennsylvania all the way to India, and investment sector GE Capital teamed up with the GE Additive business sector to sell and finance metal additive manufacturing systems. The company has been investing in education as well as in big-name acquisitions set to reshape the metal additive manufacturing industry, opened its first fully automated production line, operated entirely by robots, in Italy – and has now announced a new documentary miniseries in virtual reality. Hoping to combine the stories between art and science, the company provided financial backing for the series to Within, a virtual reality company and VR destination with the goal of exploring and expanding immersive storytelling. Within recently released the first of five branded virtual reality films that will show the side of innovation that goes beyond the stark confines of a laboratory.

within-logoThe series, created, scripted, and produced by Within, is called The Possible; specialized production studio Here Be Dragons assisted in the creation of the series with support production. Here Be Dragons supports the world’s leading innovators through VR spherical film-making; if you’re a little confused, spend five seconds on their home page and you will understand. They use “custom built tools and technology to craft and curate original immersive experiences.” The creative team at Here Be Dragons was certainly up for the job – they have collectively won several Emmys, a Tony, and a Grammy, among other awards. Within houses its own original story-based VR content, as well as content from its sister company Here Be Dragons. Some of the pieces found on Within are from other VR companies, and some are the result of creative partnerships, including some with The New York Times.

Spot

Spot

The series “aims to let people see the possibilities of science and tech within real-world settings.” Viewers have the opportunity to take a cruise on a land speeder, fly on a hoverboard, and take a walk in the woods, and the lab, with Boston Dynamics robots. The first film, titled Hello, Robot, starts with an immersive walk in the woods with an upright robot and Spot the robot quadruped, and then moves to the Boston Dynamics lab.

GE and Within gave demos of the films at an event, but it wasn’t what you would expect from a VR experience. Instead of giving people individual headsets, it was “set up more like a collection of mini-movie theaters, with anywhere from a handful to a few dozen people watching the same movie at the same time.” What made the experience even cooler was that each different area had an additional fourth dimension, such as water or wind, to give the films a little more of an immersive feel. Filmmaker and The Possible co-director Chris Milk, who co-founded both Here Be Dragons and Within, said all other mediums for storytelling are usually external experiences, that a person witnesses frame by frame; not so with VR.

Milk said, “You see a movie and it’s the story of two people in some other place than the theater you’re currently sitting in, that this thing happened to them at some point in time. And that’s the same for theater, it’s the same for literature, it’s the same for sitting around the fire in a cave. This is a show [where] we have told stories from the beginning, and I think what is so unique about virtual reality as a medium is it’s a story about us here now.”

"Hello Robot"

“Hello, Robot”

He went on to explain that while VR does have limitations, such as viewers being unable to walk around within the scene, or interact with the characters, as the technology continues to get better, this will evolve.

“Our social bonds are built through shared experiences, and the most powerful experiences. It’s not me at the fire and the cave; it’s you and your clan at the fire in the cave. We go to the movies together, we go on vacation together, and we have these shared experiences together,” said Milk.

ge-theater-unimpossible-missionsGE was partially prompted to work with VR because, while it’s often said to be a medium that can build empathy, it has also been criticized as a way to, alternatively, build isolation. It’s hard to interact with someone, even if they’re sitting right next to you, if you’re both wearing a big headset. Milk says that watching film with other people can change this feeling of isolation. The medium can still be used, at least for GE, as a way to “reach early adopters who might be interested in GE’s other endeavors.”

Alexa Christon, GE’s head of media innovation, said, “Sometimes you see something and it doesn’t need to be in virtual reality. VR is a really immersive experience, and to be able to get close to these things, to stand next to one of Boston Dynamic’s robots just lends itself to a virtual reality experience.”

[Image: General Electric via YouTube]

[Image: General Electric via YouTube]

While these VR films may not take you inside a 3D printed model of the human brain or help you with 3D design and modeling, anything that shines such an immersive light on this awesome technology sounds like a good idea to me.

Christon said, “Imagination at work goes all the way through to how we think about that as well. Is the medium as important as the message? Absolutely it is. I think the industry is in a really interesting place where experience is becoming really paramount piece. Experience and experiential is becoming really paramount of how a brands shows up.”

Each one of the films in the Within series also comes with a companion VR film at the end by GE. The separate GE-branded miniseries is called Unimpossible Missions, and is made up of two-minute films by GE, presented in tandem with each of The Possible episodes. The episodes show how GE helps “make the impossible, ‘unimpossible.'” Check out the first episode, Fighting Fire With Fire, below:

Discuss in the VR Documentary forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Adweek]

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