On Thursday, US-based fans of Mr. Robot will be able to see a 12-minute virtual reality experience based on the show, for a very limited period of time. Within, the VR film company formerly known as Vrse, will host a one-time simulcast during this week’s San Diego Comic-Con. The piece will start at 1:45PM ET, and it's available through the Within app that’s available on iOS, Android, Gear VR, the Samsung Gear VR, the Oculus Rift, and the HTC Vive. In order to watch it, you’ll want to download it ahead of time (which requires over a gigabyte of free space), then tune in at the right time. It will disappear immediately following the showing, before being permanently uploaded next week, Within confirmed to The Verge.
So far, we don’t actually know what the experience is about, except that it's written and directed by series creator Sam Esmail and "will take you into an important flashback from main character Elliot’s past." But in an enigmatic tweet a few days ago, Esmail promised that we would be seeing one long-absent character come back to the show in some capacity. Related? Possibly, although it’s a pretty big stretch.
Within is billing this as "the first nationally simulcast virtual reality experience," which I believe is correct in a limited sense — the last simulcast of a short VR film I can remember is Lynette Wallworth’s short film Collisions, and it was shown in a single location at the Sundance Film Festival. Arguably, that’s because simulcasts are risky in VR. If your HTC Vive or Gear VR crashes, which isn’t unheard-of, you’ve just missed part of the show. And fitting your phone into a Google Cardboard headset, the most widely available platform, can be tough to do quickly. On the other hand, live VR broadcasts are nothing new; they've been done for things like sporting events and a Democratic presidential debate last year.
While Within’s work is described as virtual reality, its past films have been available as 360-degree video without a headset, a more accessible option. Within has confirmed to us that this is true of Mr. Robot as well.
For the people attending the San Diego Comic-Con, there’s a little more leeway this week. You’ll be given a custom Cardboard headset if you make it out to the official premiere event, and the experience will be on show at the Mr. Robot pop-up shop at the convention. There’s also an Uber partnership that will let you request a Mr. Robot "repair van" carrying a VR setup. In the context of the show, this frankly sounds like a great way to get kidnapped by Evil Corp — but I guess that would just be another unique perk for the Comic-Con virtual experience.
Disclosure: NBC Universal, owner of USA Network, is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company. Additionally, we are an independent editorial partner in the Mr. Robot Digital After Show hosted by The Verge.
Update July 21st 8:30AM ET: Added statement from Within confirming that Mr. Robot will appear in 360-degree video and will be available again next week.