Watching TV in virtual reality seems like a far-off fantasy, but it’s much closer to, uh, reality than most of us probably realize.
The stuff you would dream about as a child is now tangible: Yes, you can put on a virtual reality headset and enter another world. Yes, there are a multitude of VR video games in which you can get lost. But what’s the story with VR TV? Why haven’t we seen more of that?
It’s coming, folks. In December 2016, TV channel Showcase announced a new innovative show, Halcyon, which would combine VR elements with the typical TV show fare. Made up of 10 short-form webisodes and five interactive VR episodes, Halcyon is an interactive police procedural with a twist. You, as a viewer, can truly be part of the show through virtual reality. (This experience is optimized and only available for Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus. In other words, you need to have a Samsung phone and an Oculus VR set to participate.)
Set in the year 2040, the series centres on Blake Creighton (Toronto native Michael Therriault, Heroes Reborn), the CEO of Halcyon, the world’s leading virtual reality company. Having cornered the market on VR, the company discards the VR headset and allows users to access virtual space using neurological implants that manipulate the senses to create a virtual world. When Creighton is found dead and presumed murdered, Detective Jules Dover (Toronto’s Lisa Marcos, Lost Girl) and her partner, Asha (Ottawa native Harveen Sandhu, Pygmalion), investigate if this could be the world’s first virtual murder.
That’s where your adventure begins — in Halcyon‘s VR episodes, you’re able to transport to the actual crime scene in VR and partake in the criminal investigation into Creighton’s death. You can move around the room, collect evidence, interact with objects and dust for fingerprints, looking for clues to help solve the crime. If you ever wanted to transport into a TV show, now’s your chance. Here’s what you can expect “watching” VR TV.
If this is your first time using VR, it can be disorienting. (Global News’ tech reporter, Nicole Bogart, was our VR guinea pig in the spring of 2016 — she gave a full description of her inaugural experience.) Once you strap on the headset and enter virtual reality, take a look around. This is a fully constructed, separate world. It’s mind-blowing to turn your head around and see, in three dimensions, something that isn’t real but certainly looks real.
This is partially what it looks like when you’re “in” Halcyon.
Some people report dizziness (like Bogart), but for the most part it’ll take a couple of seconds to steady yourself in this new world. In the case of Halcyon, you’re transported to a crime scene, and you see the tail end of a physical struggle between two people. Then it’s up to you to find clues, fingerprints or whatever else you can to help solve the case. (Don’t worry, the VR isn’t complicated and the narrator/discussion basically walks you through everything.)
WATCH BELOW: Nicole Bogart tests out the Vive
If, in your life, you’ve played any video games or read any Choose Your Own Adventure books, then you’ll have fun with Halcyon. Sure, its simplicity makes it feel like an early role-playing game, but this is just the beginning of what VR TV will eventually offer. Imagining VR TV shows like this on a grander scale, with complete immersive experiences, is tantalizing. Even with Halcyon, it’ll take only a few minutes to forget that you’re wearing a headset.
Make sure you use VR in a safe place. For Halcyon and any other VR TV shows, it’s best to make sure that there are no hazards in your near vicinity. That means moving all objects (and living creatures) that could trip you up, including dogs, cats and babies. Don’t leave out your priceless family heirlooms, either. It’s so easy to lose yourself in VR, you may flail a limb or make a sudden movement, so try to give yourself least a couple of feet of berth before you start up.
It could be the phone or it could be the headset, but in any event, the combination gets hot (read: sweat-inducing hot) after about 10 minutes of use. That’s something to consider if you’re sitting down for a long-term session.
For those without a VR headset, video recaps of the VR episodes are available online, ensuring that all fans are able to follow the crime and investigation from start to finish. You can watch episodes of Halcyon at any time, with or without VR.
Showcase currently has a contest open to win your own Samsung Gear VR headset. Details can be found here. The contest closes April 3.
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