Up until last week the only thing I knew about virtual reality was that every time I heard the term I got stuck on the song “Virtual Insanity” by Jamiroquai. (There it goes again…) I wasn’t opposed to the idea; I just thought it was for people who didn’t have the desire to actually go out and experience things in real life. A common belief, if you ask me. Then I literally saw the light and can honestly say my life has changed as has my attitude regarding VR and its capabilities.
Upon arriving for my first VR session I was surprised to learn that pretty much anyone can experience VR on their own with minimal special equipment. In fact you could – at this very moment – go online and order any number of VR headsets ranging from the basic (a cardboard contraption with special lenses) to the grandiose (a high-tech contraption that includes wireless controllers that allow the user to interact with what they are viewing). Prices for these models range from $9 to nearly $1.000. The one thing these headsets have in common is that their projector is your average smartphone. Pretty cool, huh?
I was handed a cardboard version of the above and was advised to sit during my experience, which is great advice. At first I could hear the music through the earbuds but couldn’t see anything. “Hey,” I called to Co-Director of the NCFF VR Pavilion, Romero Alves, “I don’t see anything.” I instinctively turned to look at him and all of a sudden there it was: the planet Earth. I gasped. Then I started looking around more, and there were the stars, and the sun. It was breathtaking. In that moment I realized that VR is so much more than I had imagined. This isn’t for lazy people as I had previously thought; it can open up a whole new world beyond what is realistic. Want to dance around and pop bubbles shaped like colorful kittens? VR can help. Want to immerse yourself in some of the world’s most impressive art? There’s a VR for that. The possibilities are endless.
In fact, according to the Virtual Reality Medical Center (yes, there is such a thing) VR is being used in combination with physiological monitoring to treat panic and anxiety disorders. Recently, the Stanford Virtual Reality Lab made headlines when they launched a study called Empathy at Scale which places participants in a variety of scenes designed to help them imagine the experience of being homeless. There also exists “Fear of the Sky”, a VR experience showing the devastation caused by the intense bombing of areas of Syria.
My first VR experience – which lasted all of 15 minutes – found me in some of life’s most coveted and thrilling experiences. One moment I was peacefully swimming among schools of colorful fish, and the next I was base jumping off an enormous skyscraper in Dubai. At times I felt myself experiencing a mild case of motion sickness as I careened around a corner in a jet black Porsche. It was enthralling, and its power became evident to me immediately. Imagine the possibilities!
After my first VR experience I am more thrilled than ever that this year’s Nevada City Film Festival will once again offer attendees a chance to experience this cutting edge technology. Virtual Reality is just getting started. Are you ready? Click here to check out more on the VR Pavilion and Exit Reality VR Trucks hitting the streets during the film festival.
Jennifer Nobles is the Social Media Manager for the 2017 Nevada City Film Festival