VR Creators are Morally Obligated to Scare the Hell out of Everyone

brookhaven-experiment-htc-vive-adi-robertson-0-0
A still from The Brookhaven Experiment.

Why do we like scary entertainment? Psychologists have come up with a number of theories, including a need for catharsis, a curiosity for abnormal behavior, and a heightened sense of empathy for protagonists when they triumph over something evil. As someone whose adolescence was marked by a steady diet of Stephen King novels, I think our attraction to distractions that frighten us has something to do with coping with real-world horrors. Continue reading “VR Creators are Morally Obligated to Scare the Hell out of Everyone”

We Interrupt this VR Blog to Geek Out on Metallica

220px-metallica_hardwired-_to_self-destruct_2016I first heard Metallica in 1985 or ’86 on a Sony Walkman in the back of the bus on the way home from school. The Walkman belonged to this kid named Zack who had a hideous case of athlete’s foot. My memory of hearing “Creeping Death” for the first time is forever fused with the sight and smell of the rotting flesh on Zack’s toes. This strikes me as a proper introduction to the world’s greatest thrash metal band.

It’s thirty years later and Metallica just dropped their tenth proper album, Hardwired… to Self Destruct. Released in the week after the 2016 presidential election, this feels like the first time the band’s apocalyptic vibe jives with the zeitgeist. From the beginning, they’ve assumed the pose of outsiders and musical contrarians, indulging in intricate, doom-obsessed song suites that often last long enough to kill a whole six-pack. Their biggest hit, “Enter Sandman” came out during the musical renaissance of the early nineties, when “alternative” became a genre unto itself and Metallica weirdly found themselves more or less occupying the mainstream.

On the title song of the new album, James Hetfield barks out what might be the band’s dumbest sounding yet most culturally spot-on lyrics of their career.

We’re so fucked!
Shit outa luck!
Hard wired to self-destruct!

Driving around in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election, I found myself nodding, thinking, yeah, that sounds about right. Continue reading “We Interrupt this VR Blog to Geek Out on Metallica”

Welcome Correspondents Amanda Knox and Christopher Robinson

Last spring I started writing about Seattle’s VR/AR industry on this little blog with a self-deprecating name. I often feel like a small town reporter, following the goings-on of a passionate and growing community of VR pioneers. I’m having a blast doing this, and it’s time for this little operation to grow. So I’m thrilled to announce that this blog just got a little more … Continue reading Welcome Correspondents Amanda Knox and Christopher Robinson

The Ecosystem Directory

I’m compiling a directory of all the VR/AR/immersive media companies and organizations in the greater Puget Sound area for seattlevr.us. I’m calling this directory the Ecosystem. I could use your help to make sure it’s useful. First, let me know if you don’t see a company/org that you feel belongs in the directory. Second, let me know your thoughts on the most useful way to … Continue reading The Ecosystem Directory

MoCap Now: Another Piece in the Cascadia Immersive Media Puzzle

img_20161118_1409246992
MoCap Now’s main motion capture space. Ander Bergstrom with his back to the camera, and Sixr’s Budi Mulyo, looking slightly blurry. I admit this is a pretty lousy photo. Sorry about that.

Anything could hide behind a battered warehouse door in Sodo–trapeze artists, a machine shop, a reprographics facility, an industrial bakery. Last week I pulled aside one such door on Dawson Street and found myself in a motion capture studio called MoCap Now. Continue reading “MoCap Now: Another Piece in the Cascadia Immersive Media Puzzle”

The Lay of the Land

img_20161118_111054813_hdr
Morning at CoMotion Labs. It’s still early.

I’m editing a directory of Seattle VR/AR companies and organizations for the Seattlevr.us community website. I’m positive that I’m missing some key players, so if you’re reading this and don’t see your organization listed, please contact me posthaste.

I think we can all agree that the Seattle VR scene is vibrant and growing. In the past week I’ve heard from people in LA and Helsinki who are well aware of the bubbling cauldron of immersive tech that’s happening in Puget Sound. As I write this, groggy developers are stumbling in to CoMotion Labs looking caffeine-deprived. Most everybody in this coworking space has kept the Husky-purple signs that were posted on our desks for the recent open house. Looking around the room I can see names of companies that I haven’t yet spent enough time getting to know: Timbre Interactive, Hocus Focus Productions, Fearless 360. Most days I feel that I can’t possibly keep up with everything going on in this industry in Seattle. Continue reading “The Lay of the Land”

Twitter, Facebook, the Election, and VR

A cultural discussion is underway about whether and/or how Facebook and Twitter influenced the election. The New York Times has two pieces out today, Facebook, in Cross Hairs After Election, Is Said to Question its Influence and a think piece by Farhad Manjoo called Breaking Up with Twitter.

220px-marshall_mcluhan
Marshall McLuhan

When you step into an argument about the effects of mass media, it’s useful to arm yourself with the philosophy of Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian media theorist who was once present enough on the cultural radar to appear as himself in a Woody Allen movie (Annie Hall). McLuhan’s often cryptic aphorisms have generated a fair amount of chin-stroking and head-scratching in undergraduate Communications departments over the years, but his most celebrated statement bears repeating: The medium is the message.

This is to say that the form in which content is delivered itself dictates how we interpret and interact with that content. Reading Stephen King’s The Shining isn’t the same as watching Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and not just because Kubrick changed a few details of the story. The very act of sitting in a chair reading a book at home is fundamentally different, on a cognitive level, than watching a movie in a theater among other people, or even at home on your sofa. These various methods of receiving a story engage different parts of the brain. Continue reading “Twitter, Facebook, the Election, and VR”