virtual reality

VRUK: Game of Thrones, Alice in Wonderland & Pac-Man just got virtual

By Kitty Knowles 11 February 2016

VRUK, the UK's biggest virtual reality festival, is now showcasing incredible new experiences: We even went to space to fix up the International Space Station.

Yesterday saw the launch of the biggest virtual reality festival to ever take place in the UK, attracting hoards of creators, developers, and fans.

The two-day festival VRUK is being hosted at Ravensbourne University in London’s Greenwich for its inaugural year, and has been curated by Ravensbourne in partnership with Virtual Umbrella.

As well as hosting facsinating talks from speakers like Karl Woolley of Framestore, and Sol Rogers of Rewind, the festival has been showcasing some of the coolest and innovative VR projects around.

Here are five of the most incredible experiences we got to play with when we stopped by…

We scaled The Wall of Game of Thrones with Framestore

If you love Game of Thrones as much as the Lannister siblings Jamie and Cerci love each other, you will absolutely love this immersive Westeros-based experience.

It involves stepping into the creaky iron lift, scaling infamous 900ft blockade The Wall – and being able to peer over the edge. So good, so serene: until the Wildings inevitably attack, that is.

“We created an experience to let people can step in side the show,” Liam Thompson of Framestore told The Memo.

“A lot of people get scared because it’s so high up, a lot of people freak out at the edge of The Wall, and try and duck and dodge as they’re attacked.”

“Most of the experiences we do are connected with shows or movies or characters that already exist,” he says of the HBO-backed piece. “A lot of our stuff is only at specific events or premiers, but it’s gradually getting into the hands of consumers at home.”

“I can only see this type of VR experience getting bigger and better as we go forward.”

Read more: The 360° future of virtual reality news: a view from inside the BBC

Alice in Wonderland virtual reality experience by Play Nicely VR. Pic: Play Nicely.
Alice in Wonderland virtual reality experience by Play Nicely VR. Pic: Play Nicely.

We fell down the Wonderland rabbit hole with Play Nicely

You’ll definitely feel that you’ve been eating things you perhaps shouldn’t when you experience enter.wonderland by Play Nicely.

Visitors fall through a whirling portal of cupcakes and saxophones into a Wonderland world. Here neon octopus plants and mushrooms throb to carnivalesque music. There’s even a giant golden cat head who leers and peers in an very up close and personal manner.

“This VR experience was created in collaboration we developed with the National Theatre,” Oliver Lindsey creative director of Play Nicely told us.  “We made it to accompany their production of, which is composed by Blur’s Damon Albarn and produced by Rufus Norris.”

“We wanted to create an experience where people feel immersed in the world of Wonderland and get a sense of how crazy and chaotic and beautiful and trippy the experience might be.”

“VR has potential to transport people into a space where you can completely shut them off from the real world, that’s something that theatre does, and I think VR is a great accompaniment to that.”

Find out more about the free digital installation, enter.wonderland at the National Theatre, London.

We stopped by the International Space Station with Setapp

You can also now get a taste of how astronaut Yuri Gagarin felt when, having looked back at the earth, he simply exclaimed “What beauty”.

With Setapp‘s latest game you can choose to wander – or float – around in free mode, or take on a mission. If you do the latter, your tasked with escaping your lunar module to space walk around your craft to fix something. But beware things go wrong, and you’ll have to think quick.

“With the free mode we want people to have time to see the magnificent views, we’ve seen people just staring earth from afar,” said Maciej Leśniewski, a developer for Setapp. “But with the short mission we made it so that music and the mood changes.”

“We want you to feel pressured to move fast. It’s a high intensity game.”

Read more: 10 things you need to know about the virtual reality revolution

We went house viewing with Rewind

We already know Rewind from Bjork’s incredible 360 music video, their Strictly Come Dancing front row experience, and vertigo-inducing games like Pane in the Glass.

At VRUK however, we tested out one of their projects for Stingray, which lets you wander around an apartment in San Francisco by pointing your controller. You can even manipulate the space around you, by rearranging the furniture, or opening or closing the blinds.

“If you’re modelling or animating in 3ds Max, you can now make changes in a VR environment,” says Oliver Kibblewhite of Rewind VR.

“You could make architectural plans to send over in a VR file, or in the studio you can put the headset on and modify in real time. So if the client doesn’t like the level of a ceiling – they want a bit more air – you can grab the ceiling and drag it up and the view is updated,” he explains.

“I want people to open up that vision that’s previously only been seen in glossy brochures, people want to be able to explore buildings, look under tables, and walk out on the balcony, that sort of thing.”

Read more: Explore the Battersea Power Station site in 360° years before it’s finished

We ran around a Pac-Man maze with Rovr

We also learned that it’s now not only possible to play Pac-Man, but to be Pac-Man.

Developer Tom Davies, has created his own VR version of the classic arcade game called FPS-man, where you become a disembodied entity trying to escape the glowing ghosts.

What’s more, another company called WizDish has created a product called Rovr, which lets you actually walk around in this life-like maze. You don a pair of shoes – a bit like football boots – and shimmy your feet back and forth on a metre wide pad.

“You are Pac-Man and the ghosts are your height, and when there’s music in your ears telling you they are coming it becomes very real,” says Charles Kind of WhizDish.

“With Rover you can walk and the world moves around you and the experience becomes that much more profound; People who are new to it can hold onto a supportive bar, but once you’ve had half an hour on Rover your balance is no longer challenged its just like standing.”

Read more: VR porn: the ins and outs of virtual reality’s XXX future

Our creation made using Tilt Brush by HTC. Pic: HTC.
Our creation made using Tilt Brush by HTC. Pic: Kitty Knowles

We painted sculptures with HTC

Finally, we tried out a Google demo called Tilt Brush, which lets you paint on an infinite 3D canvas, rather than being limited to a page. 

Standard paint tools like oil paint are bolstered by an array of incredible live mediums, including flickering flames, sparkling star or even a ‘plasma’ neon glow.

Users can make sweeping full-body strokes with their controllers to leave sculptural 3D trails that you can move around and even through; a bit like freezing the streams of a ribbon dancer mid-performance or capturing sparkler writing on film.

Apps like Tilt Brush will not only provide a new medium for VR artists, but it will enable other creative professionals to easily describe their ideas in 3D: Instead of emailing a colleague a model or sketch, an architect or product designer can now mock up a shape in VR. 

Move over Microsoft Paint, there’s a new toy in town.

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