To dream in VR
When I cue a Vrse film on my phone and pop it into a Google Cardboard Virtual Reality viewer, I enter a new world that is slow, sumptuous and filled with wonder. Like a dream, it’s enveloping and satisfying. I enter a world I don’t want to leave.
The experience is slowed by the processing requirements of rendering richly detailed, 360 degree animated landscapes and — in the case of live action films — the fact that VR camera rigs are clunky and for the most part stationary. This more contemplative pacing makes VR films a welcome respite. Like in meditation, my task is to arrive fully, using all senses to observe and explore my surroundings. Again like meditation, the best VR films are ones that spend just enough time with “nothing” happening so that the eyes and mind adjust to see everything that stirs beneath the surface.
While gaming companies invest millions in creating experiences that are like the fast, action-packed narratives we know today — where the player is the protagonist, hero, shooter, quarterback, etc — I believe the biggest promise is in what one might call “Slow VR”.
Slow VR calms and feeds the senses. It invites wonder and exploration. Rather than giving us the chance to see something through another’s eyes, the veil is pulled away from our own as we visit new places and spend time with new people — letting go and experiencing fully embodied, with all senses through the safe remove of a cardboard viewer.
What a gift this calm and wonder can be. Not just in those few moments we spend slowly turning in circles in our living room, a small cardboard box strapped to our faces. But in all those moments when our VR training could incline us to fully arrive, be present, observe and invite wonder wherever we are.