FuturePlay Virtual Reality Studio

Assembly’s foray into digital entertainment returns after last year’s debut of the exhibition with more cutting-edge technology and a fantastic representation of how it can intersect with art. Originally known as the Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival, it’s had a much catchier rebrand to FuturePlay.

The perfect opportunity to get a hands-on experience of the technology that is revolutionising video games, film and interactive art.

There’s several individual installations placed along George Street, but I found myself exploring the Virtual Reality Studio. With 55 minutes to explore the varied Virtual Reality (VR) experiences on offer, the staff encourage diving right in and I immediately find myself being placed on a spinning chair, kitted out with headphones and a VR visor to check out a virtual representation of contemporary dance created by Bright Side Studios and Janis Claxton Dance. It’s got shades of the classic (but terrible) 1992 Pierce Brosnan movie, The Lawnmower Man in it’s simple but evocative graphics and it’s a great introduction to the concept.

Next up, I’m on a beanbag and seeing the world through the eyes on an infant. This piece really shows the potential of VR to change your perspective; the change of scale in seeing the world from the viewpoint of a baby is unnerving and I get my first goosebumps of the session as I have a genuine visceral reaction to the action going on around me. I follow this with two short films presented by Oculus Story Studio. The first drops me in a dark forest with something strange moving about in the foliage and in the second, I stand by as an adorable cartoon hedgehog tries to hold a birthday party. The ability of the oculus system to live-update based on my location in the scene is incredible and a little overwhelming.

I finish with a beautifully rendered short about a girl who has lost her movie star mother. It’s rendered in sweeping brushstrokes of art that swirl and create epic and intimate scenes all around me. It’s a stunning example of the potential of this medium to re-write the way we tell stories and, on realising that the time is up and I won’t have the chance to partake in all of the experiences available, I leave a little disappointed but completely exhilarated.

If you’re interested or intrigued by the future of Virtual Reality then here’s the perfect opportunity to get a hands-on experience of the technology that is revolutionising video games, film and interactive art.

Reviews by Frodo Allan

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The Blurb

Immerse yourself in virtual worlds from the surreal to the sublime. Includes animation, documentary, multiplayer games and content from the Phi Centre’s Virtual Reality Garden. You will have 55 minutes to explore the installations at your leisure. Full programme available at futureplayfest.com. Due to the use of virtual reality headsets, this event is strictly age 12+.