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CHORUS Proves that the Future of VR is Shared Experiences

Shared VR experiences seem to be the hot trend making rounds at film festivals this year. It wasn’t long ago that immersive lineups only included VR films that you had to explore by yourself. Now social VR experiences are all the rage; connecting attendees through a common interactive virtual experience.

One of these shared VR experiences will have fans of Tyler Hurd’s kooky animated VR, Chris Milk’s experimental media works, and the empowering music of JUSTICE, captivated like no other.

Created by SXSW alum Tyler Hurd in association with Chris Milk’s studio WITHIN and Annapurna Pictures, “Chorus” transforms you into a fantastical female warrior, joined by five others in VR, to battle evil together in an epic journey of empowerment—all of which is orchestrated to the song “Chorus” by Justice.

We got a chance to try the experience with friends at Sundance Film Festival. I was guided inside a dark room with neon decorations along with five others as we strapped on our gear. A HTC Vive headset immersed us the virtual world and a Subpac backpack let us feel the music in our body through haptic feedback. That’s when we entered the world of “Chorus.”

A fantastical universe with iridescent creatures flying around us, I immediately noticed Hurd’s distinctive animation style, the outlandish vibrant colors with mischievous characters that completely engross you in a stunning cosmic world.

The other users who joined me were transformed into badass female warriors, floating or dancing beside me as the raw energy of Justice’s music makes you want to break out into dance to the French duo’s powerful electro music. There’s something about embodying wild anime style avatars that gives you the freedom to dance and yell at each other knowing they appear as something other than themselves.
As we shot glittery laser beams at each other and battled a giant space creature that resembles a pug crossbred with Cthulhu, the artist Hurd somehow managed to create a boss creature that is both terrifying but somehow cute. It’s safe to say that social experiences have come along way from just waving at each other as low poly characters that we’ve seen before.

A long time 3-D animator and tech artist from San Francisco, Tyler Hurd and his studio Gentle Manhands have created a number of uniquely fun “animated things” in VR. His work includes widely recognized VR experiences like Old Friend and Chocolate that have won awards and have been featured in countless festivals. Hurd has been a crucial creator in immersive media as he explores the emotional response potential of VR through music and character animation to squeeze as much joy and excitement out of people as possible.

His work has a mesmerizing effect on people by making them feel silly enough to not take yourself too seriously, letting you fully embody Hurd’s quirky characters. Even the most reluctant or serious viewers end up taking on wacky personalities and let go of reality for a couple of minutes. “Chorus” is nothing short of giving this experience to you as it creates a profound shared encounter. Most VR experiences we’ve seen so far have been isolating experiences where you are immersed individually. Tyler and Chris broke this approach to VR and proved that immersive media has the potential to fully embody and explore connected experiences. Afterall, VR is always better with friends.

Entering the “Chorus” space at Sundance Film Festival.

“We’re now all working together in a medium that has the potential to transform modern storytelling,” said Chris Milk. “The ability to experience a story with another person that you live together, rather than watch together, inside of what is essentially an authored dream–this will fundamentally change not only the way we connect to stories, but the way we connect to each other.”

The word “pioneer” is passed around like candy among many creators in the VR space, however it’s evident that there’s few artists like Chris Milk who have devoted their work to push the boundaries of immersive media and human connection. His studio Within, known for weaving artistic and technological innovations in pursuit of a new aesthetic, has a portfolio of acclaimed interactive projects that have been featured in countless festivals, from Sundance to SXSW alongside an incredible community of artists.

As the producer of “CHORUS”, Milk stated that this is one of the first examples of bigger VR studios like Within to work with outside creators to scale projects as big as this. The industry is starting to work as a vehicle similar to movie studios where there are different ways to connect and collaborate on projects instead of building everything internally. Milk also mentioned that Within wants to facilitate more creators like Tyler Hurd to build what they want to create.

This paves the way for a more collaborative culture to grow the industry and create even more fantastical projects like “Chorus”.

About the Scout

Zeynep Abes

Zeynep is a new media artist who got her start at LACMA’s Art+Tech lab creating AR installations. She then worked at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival's New Frontier Exhibitions and is currently studying computer animation and game development for VR and AR.

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