Developer Creates VR Time Machine To Relive His Past Year

Creator Lucas Rizzotto wore Snapchat Spectacles every day for a year to capture 2019 in VR.

Earlier this week, Lucas Rizzotto, the creator behind the VR experience Where Thoughts Go ,announced to the world via Twitter that he had finally cracked the code of time-travel. Sort of…

He’s not actually jumping through time like Dr Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap, but he has figured out how to travel through his own memories from 2019 using VR. Lucky for us, Rizzoto comedically documented his experience creating a personal time machine, and the process is nothing short of daunting.

First and foremost, you need to capture some memories. Rizzotto used a pair of Snapchat Spectacles 3 glasses, which have two cameras built into the the frame capable of recording video in stereoscopic 3D. This video capture is perfect for VR. With a single push of a button, Rizzotto was able to record a series of one minute videos every single day for a full year as he frolicked across the globe trying new foods, hanging out in trees, going to da clubs, and sightseeing at different locations. 

Once he had a year’s worth of memories saved up on a stack of hard drives, Rizzotto started the work on how he would use VR to access his past. His approach was to split his time machine project into three trials.

The Control Panel

If there’s once thing 80’s science fiction movies have taught us, it’s that every time machine needs a series of oldschool buttons and knobs to fiddle with. Rizzotto used old-fashioned coding skills to build out a panel that would be easy to use in-headset; it’s obvious he took inspiration from Doc Brown’s Delorean from the film Back to the Future.

The Memory Finder

You need the data (or memories) to be searchable through the Control Panel. How does that happen? It’s literally a year’s worth of random one minute clips. There needs to be a way for the Control Panel to easily access these memories. To do this, he used metadata. Unfortunately that did not go as planned for our hero time traveler, which is detailed in his YouTube video.

The Time Travel FX

You need badass special FX to convince you that you’re actually zipping back in time. What does that even look like? Rizzotto looked at a lot of different time travel films for inspiration, but in the end none of them were able to achieve the visuals he was looking for. I won’t spoil it for you, but what he came up with is pretty incredible.

During his half-hour video, Rizzotto entertainingly details how he approached each individual phase and the struggles he encountered putting his time-machine project together. It was no easy task; at certain times, he came across obstacles that challenged his own sanity.

Building a VR-powered time machine isn’t an easy task. It’s a labor of love. During an interview with VRScout, Rizzotto talked about what he loved most about the project, saying, “Honestly, to be frank, my favorite part of the project was actually the video,” adding, “I spent the last 3 months trying to find out how to communicate something in a way that’s educational, funny and also dramatically honest, and I think I really found something special.”

According to leading experts, actual time travel isn’t possible, at least not in the way portrayed in H.G. Wells book The Time Machine or the film Hot Tub Time Machine. Rizzotto hopes projects like this will help romanticize the idea of bending reality while encouraging others to challenge the impossible.

Wearing an Oculus Rift S to jump into his VR time machine and wearing a Nintendo Power Glove just for the visual effect, Rizzotto recorded his first jump back in time, and the results were incredible.

Diving through your memories can’t be easy, especially the difficult parts. “Watching yourself live your life as an outsider really impacts you,” explained Rizzotto. “You get an insight into who you are that you simply can’t get otherwise. I learned a bunch of things about me by just watching it and the project as a whole made me realize that I often was very harsh and mean to myself as a human being. That guy I was watching was just…trying his best.”

At the same time, however, watching your past through a VR time machine offers a rare chance at self-reflection. It unlocks lost memories and details from a moment in your life. Rizzotto found himself remembering things such as smells, how a bite of food tasted, and other small details he had ultimately forgotten.

Even though his view into time was through a small circular window, his brain projected the VR experience as a full immersive 360 memory. He found himself having conversations with his past self. Those conversations across time were deeply impactful for Rizzotto. “I think there’s definitely a lot of lessons here on how our relationship with the past and the future is going to change in very big ways.”

Rizzotto has no plans on releasing his time machine to the public, but it’s not out of the question. For now he’s focusing on his next idea. If it’s anything like his time machine VR experience or Where Thoughts Go, then we are in for yet another game-changing project. 

“I wanted the project to be something that’s really cool on its own, but also gives a glimpse of what’s coming ahead.”

Exciting indeed!

Follow Lucas Rizzotto on Twitter if you’d like to know more about his work.

Image Credit: Lucas Rizzotto

About the Scout

Bobby Carlton

Hello, my name is Bobby Carlton. When I'm not exploring the world of immersive technology, I'm writing rock songs about lost love. I'd also like to mention that I can do 25 push-ups in a row.

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