I want to create a masterpiece in VR that will define the early stages of the medium like Citizen Kane defined film. I have a vision for what this will entail, and I am actively building a talent pool to make this vision a reality.
I’d like to create an explorable virtual world based on my 2012 novel Blueprints of the Afterlife. The novel follows survivors of a catastrophic era in a future Pacific Northwest, where an exact replica of Manhattan is under construction in Puget Sound and gigantic human heads hover mysteriously in the sky.
The world of Blueprints is governed by three technologies. The Bionet, a biological Internet, that is used to heal but is hacked by “DJs” who turn the people they control into “embodiments.” Newmans are a race of post-human androids tasked with restoring nature and rebuilding civilization. Meanwhile, a mystical tribe of monks operates quantum computers called qputers to distort reality.
When I wrote Blueprints I imagined much of it taking place in a virtual environment. I was surprised to discover that much of what I imagined in my novel is actually achievable in VR. In many ways, the book, full of mixed realities, hallucinations, offloaded memories, and video game interludes, is perfect for VR.
Blueprints of the Afterlife was favorably reviewed in the New York Times, was a finalist for the Philip K Dick Award, and was published in translation in Spain and the Czech Republic. It has been compared to works by Thomas Pynchon, Haruki Murakami, and David Foster Wallace (which is a bit rich, if you ask me).
I wanted to write a novel that would stick around in readers’ heads long after they finished it. Based on readers’ responses and the novel’s continued, if modest, sales, it seems I achieved that goal. Now I want to take the novel even further and convert it into a rich and explorable virtual world.
An Evolution, Not an Adaptation
I’m convinced that the key to producing ground-breaking content in VR is accepting the medium on its own terms. You have to abandon much of what you think you know about storytelling and let the medium teach you how to use it. You can’t pour a novel into virtual reality. The novel should serve as a blueprint itself.
The big question is, what can you do in VR that you can’t do in any other medium? I want that question to be at the forefront of the development of the Blueprints VR experience.
I envision an explorable sandbox of a world that will incorporate biofeedback, multiplayer social VR, photogrametry, artificial intelligence, haptics, a next-gen codec integrated with head-tracking for spatial sound, and an e-commerce platform, among other features.
For the past several months I have been consulting with experts in every one of these fields, with backgrounds at Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Bungie, and myriad other tech companies. I know who to talk to and what questions to ask. My many hours of conversations with industry pioneers have led me to believe that what I envision is achievable. Now my intention is to compile a roster of talent who could actually pull this off.
Who the Hell Am I to Even Attempt This?
That’s a really good question.
I’m a member in good standing of Seattle’s growing VR/AR community and Editor-in-Chief of the community’s site, seattlevr.us. I work out of CoMotion Labs, the University of Washington’s VR incubator and innovation center. I attend VR/AR meetups and hackathons. I write a weekly column on VR storytelling for VR Today Magazine, and blog about VR/AR at ryanboudinotisahack.com. I’m currently working with members of the cinematic VR community to advocate industry-wide policies that will spark the VR content industry in the Pacific Northwest. In October, I’m launching an introductory VR class geared toward artists at Chronos Global Academy.
In short, I’ve gone all-in on VR. I’m learning more every day, and am thrilled to be present at the birth of this transformative new medium. I want to create something artistic in VR that blows minds and moves hearts.
Join the Talent Pool
I’m gathering a roster of talented individuals who would be interested in being considered for my team. I’m not asking for a commitment from anyone at this point, just expressions of interest. I’m looking to build a database of gifted and ambitious VR pioneers who I can approach to work with me or simply consult on this project when it gets funded.
I’m especially interested in hearing from people who work in the following areas.
- Game design
- Art direction/production design
- Binaural audio
- Unity/Unreal Engine
- Social/multiplayer VR
- Project management
- Architectural VR/Revit/BIM
- Machine learning/AI
- Affiliate marketing/ecommerce
- 360 video production
- Quantum computing
- Human-computer interface
- Medical imaging
If you’re working on any aspect of virtual reality, even if it’s not on the above list, and this project sounds intriguing to you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. Tell me what you can do, what you’ve made, and where you have worked. I can’t make any promises, but I will take your interest very seriously. I’ll keep your name handy as someone to approach should this project take off.