A few months ago, I mentioned that we were pausing development on SoundSelf to work on a related project. I’m happy to finally share with you:
For the last few months we’ve been developing a version of
SoundSelf for Gear VR: Oculus’ mobile VR hardware for the Samsung Note 4. This will be the first complete version of SoundSelf made commercially available, and we plan to have it ready for the launch of the device. The mobile version of SoundSelf will be more compact than the PC version, with each sitting lasting about 15 minutes. To meet the limitations of mobile without compromising SoundSelf’s unusual goals, we’ve hired Cale Bradbury to reinvent the project’s visual style in a fashion inspired by the Star Child sequence at the end of “2001, A Space Odyssey” (see attached image). If you played SoundSelf at PAX this week, you have experienced that content.
One could be excused for imagining the coming rebirth of Virtual Reality as merely a video game technology, but it is not. It is a new medium unto itself. All mediums have been both inspired and handicapped at their founding by the forms that preceded them: Cinema took decades to emerge from the limitations of photography and theater, and the influence of tabletop games and cinema are still pervasive in videogames.
The difference, however, between the birth of VR and the births of those other forms is that Virtual Reality has existed as a promise in our culture’s imagination for two generations. It will not trickle into common use. Instead it will explode into the market and we will have to very quickly figure out what that means for us.
Right now, the conversation about VR and its implications for our relationship with technology is basically limited to designers, tech journalists, and extreme enthusiasts. The launch of this first consumer VR headset is not only important as a new technology per se, but as an event that will hugely increase the potency of that conversation: what does VR mean for us as a culture? How can it serve us? While VR is already inheriting the disciplines of game design and cinema, it is important to me that a version of SoundSelf be available at the launch of Gear VR so that it may inspire futurists in that conversation to look past the immediate horizon of videogame and cinema adaptations to see the much more powerful implications of the medium. If we are lucky, perhapsVR will outgrow it’s origins in five years instead of twenty.
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