Strange World

Here’s a really short clip of the storytelling app I helped create during the Microsoft Hololens Hackathon last weekend. Most of the credit belongs to the other members of my team: Majesta Vetal, Tarik Merzouk, and Eva Hoerth. I was so proud to be part of this project, which won the prize for best visuals.

A few notes about what you’re seeing here. This is how the app looks when viewed through a Hololens. The Hololens has a “record” feature that allows you to capture video of what you’re seeing. Eva recorded this video, and that’s her hand you see clicking the “Next” button.

The app appears as a 3D hologram with multiple planes. I think it was wise of us, given the time constraints, to create something that used planes to represent three dimensions, rather than rendering a holographic object.

eva vr
This is what it looked like when Eva was recording the video posted above. You only see the hologram if you’re wearing the Hololens. Now imagine a huge event space full of people looking like this.

I’ll do my best to describe our process, and I’m sure I’ll blow some details, but basically, Majesta created the artwork with a stylus, then exported the files into Unity. Tarik manipulated these planes and worked hard on the transition effect. Meanwhile Eva and I recorded monster sounds that we intended to add to a page we never got around to completing in the 44 hours of the hackathon. But we did get this project to a point where we were able to demonstrate the basic functionality of a 3D holographic pop-up book.

One of the coolest moments of the weekend was putting on the Hololens and seeing Majesta’s artwork blown up two stories tall. It struck me that it wasn’t just that you could make a pop-up book that was a hologram. You could make this hologram GIGANTIC.

I think scale is going to be one of the most exciting storytelling tools of VR and AR. Last night at the new White Center Library, I imagined how cool it would be to create a VR environment where you encountered a baby that was two stories tall. I realized that this is actually achievable. I also started thinking about that scene from Minority Report where Tom Cruise’s character kicks back in his apartment and watches a holographic home movie. When Minority Report came out, such a technology was outlandish. What’s astonishing now is that the holo-movie in Minority Report was actually way crappier than what you’d be able to create in AR right now.

At the library, I picked up the newest issue of Rolling Stone, which has an article about Palmer Luckey, inventor of the Oculus Rift, and the state of VR. One tidbit that made me literally jump vertically from a seated position was the revelation that Stephen Spielberg isn’t just adapting Ernest Cline’s crazily entertaining sf novel Ready Player Onehe’s creating a VR experience that replicates the game world described in the novel. So you’ll be able to go to the movie, then go home, strap on your goggles, and enter the world you just saw projected on the screen.

We’re here. We’re making stories in virtual reality. It’s happening right now.