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Virtual reality wins its first Emmy

Sleepy Hollow's Oculus Rift-based execution gets an award

For the first time, a virtual reality movie has won an Emmy award, as hardware such as the Oculus Rift and HTC's Vive comes closer to the commercial market. Sleepy Hollow, a short virtual reality experience based on the TV show of the same name, won the Emmy for user experience and visual design — not one of the more well-known of the awards offered by the Television Academy, but an indication that VR is moving closer to the mainstream.

Sleepy Hollow was created by Canadian studio Secret Location, in partnership with Fox, and was first shown off at Comic-Con this year. Attendees were asked to put the Oculus Rift DK2 headset on, before the show's decapitated antagonist appeared in front of their eyes, raising its axe to lop their heads off. The video closes with the viewer's "head" lifted from its resting place on the floor by the hair. Videos show the appropriately terrified reactions of people who braved the experience, clutching at their necks, double-checking that the visual feedback their eyes were seeing wasn't translating to the real world.

We're still at the beginning of this new wave of interest in virtual reality, but already a number of the games and experiences developed for platforms such as Oculus Rift have a fascination with putting the viewer in peril, making them suffer, or even "killing" them. Capcom's Kitchen, for example, was the talk of this year's E3. The semi-interactive vignette, designed for Sony's Project Morpheus, tied the player down to a chair in a dilapidated kitchen and terrorized them with a demonic figure and a knife through the leg. Such experiences might be harrowing, but they're effective ways of showing the power of the new wave of virtual reality headsets — expect the release of VR hardware later this year to be accompanied by a wide range of similarly horrific movies and games.