Exclusive: First-Ever Impact Reality Summit Announces 2020 Lineup

Vulcan Productions has teamed up with Kaleidoscope to launch the Impact Reality Summit, a two-day event celebrating the very best in “XR for Good” storytelling.

The Impact Reality Summit—hosted by Kaleidoscope and Vulcan, and held at Vulcan’s Seattle Headquarters Jan. 9-10—has officially announced its lineup of content and panels aimed at exploring the next wave of socially conscious XR. Selected projects will be in the running to win a combined $50,000 in development funding.

Some of the biggest names in social impact will be in attendance, including: Participant Media, Conservation International, the Rainforest Alliance, Connect for Climate/World Bank, and the Milken Institute, as well as tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Oculus. 

“The lineup at the inaugural Impact Reality Summit will not only inspire people but will really represent the best in “XR for good” storytelling,” Kaleidoscope CEO René Pinnell said. “We are proud to share these wide-ranging filmmakers’ stories with the leading creators, technology leaders and funders in the XR industry.” 

Activities will include a fireside chat with Roger Ross Williams, the Academy-Award-winning filmmaker who created Traveling While Black, which was nominated for a 2019 Emmy for Outstanding Original Interactive Program; as well as the husband and wife documentarian team Ashlan and Philippe Cousteau—oceanic explorers, adventurers, award-winning filmmakers, and hosts of the Travel Channel’s Caribbean Pirate Treasure

Image Credit: Kaleidoscope, Vulcan

Here’s a breakdown of the scheduled panels and workshops followed by the projects on display:

Panels & Workshops

Animating the Future: this conversation with Baobab Studios CEO Maureen Fan and CCO Eric Darnell will focus on how they craft their immersive narratives, how XR will impact future generations, and what’s next for the acclaimed production house.

The Art of XR Fundraising: This seminar with Kaleidoscope’s René J. Pinnell will give an in-depth overview of current industry trends in funding and how to retain a project’s impact goals while meeting a funder’s expectations for return-on-investment (ROI). 

Ethics of Time Travel: How is XR redefining our past, present, and future? This discussion will explore how the rising generation will access historical moments and information—and the potential dangers that come with XR’s ability to curate our perception of the past.

Impact Reality Pitch: What does it take to earn a grant for an XR production? This pitch session features ten creators of in-development projects who are seeking funds to make their ideas a reality. In front of a live audience, each of the participants will offer a global overview of their project, including impact plan (around one of the summit’s core focus areas, including: Climate Change, Sustainability, and Community & Social Justice). An audience vote will determine which project earns the Grand Prix of $20k in development funds. 

XR For Good: A workshop that discusses how to develop successful and measurable impact strategies for “For Good” immersive productions, including defining XR’s ROI, measurement tools, and presentation strategies for future funders. 

Virtual Accessibility: A conversation on SocialVR & Storytelling oriented around accessibility. The VR industry has exploded with groundbreaking storytelling projects, hardware, and platforms that have shone a light on physically disabled individuals worldwide. This conversation will examine the state of accessibility in VR and XR storytelling’s impact on accessibility. 

XR Masterclass: Tree: New Reality’s Tree has garnered widespread critical and audience acclaim, resulting in one of the longest-running XR impact campaign tours to date. During this masterclass, creators Milica Zec and Winslow Porter will discuss their journey to create this multi-sensory experience, as well as implementing a lasting environmental impact campaign with Rainforest Alliance.

Projects & Awards

The following awards will be presented to four projects in competition at the Impact Reality Summit:

  • Grand Prix ($20,000): the project with the greatest potential for positive global impact.
  • Best in Climate Change ($10,000): the project that best highlights the causes, consequences, and solutions to climate change.
  • Best in Sustainability ($10,000): the project with the greatest potential to support ocean health, environmental protection, fresh water resource management, pollution and waste prevention, or species and habitat protection.
  • Best in Community & Social Justice ($10,000): the project with the greatest potential to positively impact community and social justice.

“Vulcan Productions has put together an amazing and diverse lineup of some of the most cutting edge XR projects in the industry,” said Creative Director of Emerging Media at Vulcan Productions Matt Milios. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to be hosting such an eclectic mix of panels, events, and workshops.”

The ten projects in consideration at the Impact Reality Summit include:

4 Feet: Blind Date
Argentina | 2018 | 18 Min | Creator: María Belén Poncio/ Rosario Perazolo Masjoan / Damián Turkieh / Ezequiel Lenardón

“Juana is an 18-year-old, blue-haired girl bound to a wheelchair, and she is anxious to explore her sexuality. She is going on a blind date with Felipe, a guy she found on social media. She didn’t tell him about the wheelchair. After overcoming her fears, her doubts, and an inaccessible city, she meets him—and together they will discover how their bodies feel.”

USA | 2019 | Creator: Nancy Baker Cahill

Battlegrounds offers a new type of subversive public art which asks no permission, but attempts to prompt thoughtful discourse around the most urgent issues the artwork and sites represent for the larger community they serve. The app is available on most devices and open to the public. This is an unapologetically political project, and does no environmental harm in a region of the country which is most vulnerable to climate change. Community programming and workshops are essential to this project.”

USA | 2019 | 15-20 Min | Creator: Eric Damell

“In Bonfire, the latest interactive VR experience from the award-winning Baobab Studios, you play the leading role. After crash-landing at night in a mysterious clearing of an unknown planet three-hundred light-years from Earth, a chance meeting with a local inhabitant helps you learn that unexpected encounters just might result in lasting friendships. In this intimate setting, you have the opportunity to embrace, explore and influence the world around you, and, perhaps, make new friends. With Bonfire, Baobab has further explored instilling empathy in kids and people of all ages.”

Daughters of Chibok
Nigeria | 2019 | 11 Min | Creator: Joel Kachi Benson

“In 2014 the sleepy agrarian community of Chibok (Borno State, North East Nigeria) was thrust into the global spotlight when the dreaded, anti-women education, terrorist group Boko Haram stormed the town at night and abducted 276 teenage schoolgirls from their dormitories. The world watched in shock and horror as videos of the girls, surrounded by machine gun- wielding terrorists, surfaced all over the internet and satellite channels across the globe. The VR deals with the aftermath of the kidnappings, and explores topical global issues of gender rights and the right to education.”

Drop in the Ocean
UK, France, USA | 2019 | 7 Min | Creator: Adam May, Chris Parks, Dr M Sanjayan

“‘Drop in the Ocean’ is an interactive, social virtual-reality experience that immerses you deep in the water—and directly into the plastic pollution crisis plaguing the world’s oceans. The seven-minute-long experience is built from the photo archive of Academy Award-winning micro-photographer Peter Parks and narrated by explorers Philippe and Ashlan Cousteau. It features the music of Gold Panda.”

The Key
USA, Iraq | 2019 | 15 Min | Creator: Celine Tricart

The Key is a room-scale VR experience with a strong narrative structure punctuated by moments of choice. The participant is led through dream-like environments, facing challenges along the way and experiencing loss. Through this journey, a hidden truth is revealed as the participant realizes they’ve experienced the journey of a refugee who was forced to leave their homeland behind and create a new life in a foreign country. The Key was created in partnership with Friends of Refugees, a non-profit that empowers refugees through opportunities and helps them feel at home in a new community.”

USA | 2017 – Present | Creator: StoryFile

“StoryFile’s AI, voice-activated technology allows users to connect to others through an intimate, interactive conversation, offering an unprecedented social experience.”

Traveling While Black
USA | 2019 | 20 Min | Creator: Roger Ross Williams

“The Green Book was a survival guide, first published in 1936, that African American travelers relied on to avoid brutal discrimination; it listed safe places that would fulfill their basic needs. In 1958, Ben and Virginia Ali’s new restaurant, Ben’s Chili Bowl, joined the list. This installation invites viewers into Roger Ross Williams’s emotionally moving VR experience about race and restricted movement in America, and afterward connect in an intimate booth at Ben’s Chili Bowl.”

USA | 2017 | 9 Min | Creator: Milica Zec, Winslow Porter

“This critically acclaimed and haptically enhanced virtual reality experience transforms you into a majestic rainforest tree. With your arms as branches and body as a trunk, you’ll experience the tree’s life from a seedling to its fullest form and witness its fate firsthand.”

My Africa: Elephant Keeper
USA, UK | 2018 | 9 Min | Creator: Conservation International, Passion Planet, Vision3

“Narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o and presented in stunning 360° VR, “My Africa” transports viewers to an elephant sanctuary in Kenya, where a community is reknitting the bonds that have long enabled people and wildlife to coexist. Following on from the 360 film, audiences can welcome and feed the baby elephant named Dudu to the sanctuary, using real world props to create an innovative and photo realistic interactive VR experience.”

Feature Image Credit: Kaleidoscope, Vulcan

About the Scout

Dave Dorsey

Dave Dorsey is a contributing writer for VRScout and CEO of SilVRscreen Productions, a VR content studio creating premium CG experiences with an emphasis on story.

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