VR Visionaries: Tool | Oculus

VR Visionaries: Tool | Oculus

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In January 2015, a New York Times journalist brought the work of psychologist Arthur Aron into the spotlight when she set out to see if asking 36 questions could lead to love (spoiler alert: it did). Today, you can conduct a similar experiment in VR with Fall in Love—an interactive experience now available for Rift on the Oculus Store.

To learn more, we sat down with Tool Director and Moth + Flame Founder Kevin Cornish.

What was the initial inspiration behind Fall in Love?

Kevin Cornish: The first thing I shot in 360° was a project for Taylor Swift. During that shoot, there was a moment when she looked to the camera and it felt like she was looking directly at you and speaking to you. The feeling that resulted from that moment, the feeling of getting attention and creating a strong human connection in VR—that’s what I set out to achieve with Fall in Love.

The premise of Arthur Aron’s study was that the thing that bonds us as human beings is the act of conversation more so than the words we’re speaking, which made it clear to me that the 36 Questions study was the best framework for the feeling I wanted to convey.

What kind of response have you seen while demoing the experience?

KC: The most interesting thing I’ve witnessed is that when people are in the experience, their mannerisms mimic how they would normally converse with someone in the real world. For example, when the questions were presented to them, they’d look down at the question to read it and look up to make eye contact with the character before asking it. I’d see them smile back and laugh when the characters would laugh or say something endearing. People’s politeness and mannerisms while in the experience have been fascinating to watch.

Did you encounter any obstacles directing live actors for a VR piece? If so, how did you overcome those challenges?

KC: The most important thing was getting natural and authentic answers from them, so we made sure to create an environment that made them feel comfortable exposing emotions they wouldn’t normally share with a stranger. One way we did this was by having the actors sit across from their significant others. For example, we had Grace Van Dien’s boyfriend sit on the other side of the camera, so she was having the conversation directly with him, which we filmed in real-time using Errol Morris’s The Interrotron.

Authenticity and natural human emotion were our main ingredients.

What first attracted you to VR as a creative space?

KC: As a filmmaker, our responsibility is to create content that gives people the opportunity to experience emotions. With VR, you can create a piece of content that makes someone feel important. You can give and receive attention in a way that isn’t possible in traditional filmmaking.

What do you think the future of voice-activated VR content might look like?

KC: I believe that the power of VR is not only the places it will take you, but the people it will allow you to meet. The future of voice-activation in VR will give you the ability to talk to people you would never be able to meet in the real world. From experiencing a one-on-one lecture from the finest professors in the world to having a dinner conversation with politicians across the globe or even getting to gossip with one of your favorite celebrities—in the future, geography will not limit the people we can have face-to-face conversations with. And with VR, you can converse with them in their natural environment, whether it be an office, classroom, or at home.

Thanks for the insights, Kevin. We can’t wait to see what Tool and Moth + Flame come up with next.

Fall in Love is now available on Rift, with plans to launch on Gear VR later this year.

— The Oculus Team

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