Google is Showing Off Their Spotlight Story ‘Pearl’ on HTC Vive

The animated VR short premieres at the Tribeca film festival this weekend.

Google is taking another big step in VR with their latest Spotlight Stories animated short, Pearl, premiering for the first time on the HTC Vive at the Tribeca film festival in New York this weekend.

Spotlight Stories, which is part of Google’s ATAP R&D group, has brought us some beautifully crafted shorts in the past with Special Delivery and On Ice. As part of an ongoing series of projects run by the ATAP unit, past animated shorts were published as 360-degree videos with interactive elements when viewed on an Android phone.

But now their latest Spotlight Story, Pearl, from Patrick Osborne (director of Disney’s Oscar-nominated short film Feast) will be shown at the Tribeca Interactive Playground with versions for mobile phones, Google’s Cardboard VR viewer and the HTC Vive.

Considering Google had previously only distributed Spotlight Stories through a dedicated Android app or with 360-degree videos directly uploaded to YouTube, it’s an exciting development to see Pearl available on the Vive, signaling a shift in how future shorts may be distributed – a version for VR headsets and a version for mobile phones.


Pearl is a coming of age story about a girl growing up with her musician dad set to the song “No Wrong Way Home.” The short is a smart combination of music and storytelling, where at times the song is performed by the characters or through items in the car like an old tape recorder. The whole film takes place in the car, letting 360-degree viewers use their phone to explore all the action as it plays out from your POV in the passenger seat.

The Vive version adds a whole new layer to the immersive experience, for example, giving you the option to stand up and look through the sunroof while the car is driving, making Pearl a great seated experience for the Vive and potentially Oculus if they ever decided.


Throughout the film, there are a handful of trigger points that allow users to influence the timing. The immersive versions of Pearl can last anywhere from 5:30 to 7 minutes, depending on how much time viewers spend looking at certain things. This is not the first time the Spotlight Stories team has experimented with such trigger points. But this was clearly one of its most ambitious projects to date: Pearl was comprised of 38 shots, 26 sets and 17 characters.

Google will release a 360-video-version in the coming weeks on YouTube much like previous Spotlight Stories.


If you are going to be at Tribeca, there will be theatrical showings of Pearl starting on Sunday 4/17 and if you haven’t already, be sure to check out past Spotlight Stories on your Android phone.

Image Credit: Google via Variety

About the Scout

Jonathan Nafarrete

Jonathan Nafarrete is the co-founder of VRScout.

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