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Oculus is developing an immersive theater VR experience with real actors

Oculus is developing an immersive theater VR experience with real actors


Billed as indie game Journey meets NYC production Sleep No More

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Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Oculus VR is developing an immersive theater experience to debut next year that will feature real-world actors who perform in virtual reality using motion capture. The experience is being billed as indie game Journey meets interactive theater show Sleep No More, according to Yelena Rachitsky, an executive producer of experiences at Oculus who detailed the project in an interview with CNET.

The central idea is to use trained actors who perform live while viewers interact with them from the comfort of their homes, with everyone using Oculus Rift headsets to enter into and experience the shared world. Oculus hopes that blending the benefits of immersive theater with the unique experimental benefits only VR can provide might be a winning combination that could encourage more consumers, developers, and artists to invest in VR as a form of entertainment and artistic expression. “We’re really interested in, how do you create that experience of live actors without needing to be in a site-specific location,” Rachitsky told CNET. “It’s a way to scale.”

Notably, immersive theater is only getting bigger, with HBO turning a multi-acre farm on the outskirts of Austin into a real-life version of the fictional Sweetwater town from Westworld to promote its second season. The format, popularized by New York City productions like Sleep No More and San Francisco-based The Speakeasy, places actors with scripted narratives into a living, breathing environment where guests are free to interact with and become a part of the story. Immersive theater has, up until now, typically dabbled in areas like historical fiction and horror, the latter borne from the evolution of the haunted house as guests seek out ever more elaborate setups and psychologically taxing experiences.

Oculus’ model could combine the best of both worlds, by giving guests an experience only real human actors can provide but in a setting and with the freedom of access only VR is capable of. It’s an interesting concept, but it sounds like we won’t know more about how the project develops until later this year. Still, Facebook is hosting its annual F8 developer conference in San Jose, California starting tomorrow, and it may dedicate some time during the keynote to detailing how this immersive theater VR combination could work and what it might look like.