Not to long ago my friend said, “One day a kid will create an Oscar winning short-film in their bedroom.” The idea behind that statement fascinated me.
If that was said just ten years ago it would be considered preposterous. Filmmakers in earshot would have bursted into laughter at the mere thought of it. But in 2016, the thought seems totally reasonable, highly likely even.
Why is this the case? Why now?
The Medium is the Metaphor
Philosopher Marshall McLuhan introduced the revolutionary idea that the medium itself, not the contents it carries, should be the focus of our studies when he wrote that the “Medium is the Message” in his 1964 book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.
Simply put, what this implies is that the “message” of any medium or technology is not in its content, but rather is in the change of scale, or pace, or pattern that it introduces into human affairs. The “content” of any medium, in this case, is always another medium in itself.
In his prophetic 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death Neil Postman makes an amendment to McLuhan’s observation, replacing the “message” with the “metaphor.” He does this because “how people think about time and space, and about things and processes, will be greatly influenced by the grammatical features of their language.” In other words, variations in linguistic forms vary our world views.
This is to say that each medium, like language itself, “makes possible a unique mode of discourse by providing a new orientation for thought, for expression, for sensibility.”
While a message represents a concrete statement about the world, the forms of our media do not make such statements. Rather, they act as metaphors implying their own “special definitions of reality.” Or as Ernst Cassirer put it: “[Man] cannot see or know anything except by the interposition of [an] artificial medium.”
This idea put forth by McLuhan and elaborated on by Postman, the idea that the medium is the metaphor upon which we formulate our understandings of information, is important to consider when thinking about the potential impact of Visionary VR’s latest unveiling, Mindshow.
Mindshow: A New Orientation for Thought and Expression
As humans we have many modes of understanding. We understand visually, aurally, tactically, kinesthetically, spatially. The issue with the web and mobile is that their contents are trapped behind a flat screen, and flat screens can only provide two modes of understanding — visual and aural. I would even go so far as to say that visual understanding is the only true to life mode unlocked through a screen, since aural understanding in nature is understood spatially and speakers present sound unidirectionally.
The most powerful thing about virtual reality as a medium is not how cool the games are or how exciting entertainment can be, it is its capability to unlock additional modes of understanding.
In VR we quite literally gain an additional dimension, allowing us to understand spatially. Our bodies are tracked in this space, allowing us to move around and understand kinesthetically. Input controllers and haptic devices give us agency over our hands, allowing us to understand tactically. 360 degree audio presents sound as we would hear it in nature, allowing us a more human aural understanding. Immersive imagery envelops us, providing a sense of presence that connects us deeply with our visual environment.
Virtual reality is a medium fit for realizing the contents of our imaginations, and Mindshow is a tool that enables us to physically manifest them.
Mindshow is one of the few tools taking full advantage of the VR medium. It is a tool that provides a new orientation for thought and expression. In Mindshow I don’t just watch the story, I author it. I don’t just see the characters, I become them. I don’t just observe the scene in front of me, I experience it.
To create a short-film like the one I made in ten minutes during my demo at VRLA would have taken me weeks, even months on computer. To author behavior in a character I would have needed to learn how to write code, but in Mindshow, I author behavior by literally jumping inside of the characters skin and physically moving my body. In other words, I behave like a human naturally wants to behave.
“We’re making animated movies that you can walk around inside of. We’re creating a world where anyone can be their own movie studio.”
Do you understand how revolutionary of an idea this really is? Can you see why when Visionary VR CEO Gil Baron says “we are creating a world where anyone can be their own movie studio” he isn’t kidding? Do you see how Mindshow didn’t only create a tool for making VR content, but actually created a new language for human expression?
Is the metaphor becoming clearer now?
In every tool we create within this medium, an idea is embedded that goes far beyond the function of the tool itself. On the surface Mindshow might seem like just fun and games but I encourage you to dig deeper. Ask bigger questions like “How does this change the pattern of human creativity?” “How does this effect the scale and pace with which we physically manifest and express our thoughts” and find the metaphor that works for you.
Once you do, I hope you come to the same realization as I have — that one day a kid will create an Oscar winning short-film in their bedroom, and the world will be more beautiful because of it.
If you are building a VR creation tool and want to chat, please email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org