Explore lost communities in immersive ‘Circa 1948’ exhibition and app

[From Mashable, where the story includes a 3:02 minute video]

Circa 1948 graphic

Think Oculus Rift is Immersive? Try This Augmented Reality Experience

By Samantha Murphy Kelly
May 6, 2014

I recently visited Vancouver in 1948. The part of town I was in was a bit run down, which made sense since the Second World War was still fresh, and the city was undergoing a recession and a major housing crisis.

I walked into homes, climbed stairs and listened in on conversations to learn more about the people who lived there. Over time, I pieced together character personalities and individual stories, while following voices from room to room. Ultimately, the experience played out like a movie — and I could choose what happened next based on who I wanted to follow and where I wanted to be.

I didn’t use a time machine to do this, of course. I was at an interactive exhibition, called Circa 1948, at the TriBeCa Film Festival’s Storyscapes event (in partnership with Bombay Sapphire), which featured five transmedia projects that embrace telling stories in a creative way.

This project was created by artist Stan Douglas and the National Film Board of Canada’s digital studio. And unlike 3D augmented reality gaming experiences — like the Oculus Rift, which was recently purchased by Facebook for $2 billion — it’s a holodeck-like experience and your body is the joystick.

A participant stands in a room surrounded by four wall projections. Microsoft Kinect systems maps the skeleton and head, while the projectors map out a virtual world based on their perspective.

Taking steps in any direction advances the screen accordingly. Placement also triggers conversations, so you can eavesdrop in on what characters are saying.

“The characters are inspired by 18 real people, and story is inspired by life and events at the time,” Loc Dao, creative technologist and executive producer of the project, told Mashable. “We wanted to add in the interactive and narrative layer that let’s you explore a story with 90 minutes of dialogue in a non-linear game-like experience for non-gamers.”

Although the interactive installation is headed to Toronto and Vancouver this fall and winter — and the team hopes to bring it to more festivals soon — there’s also a free iOS app called Storyworld that lets people unable to see it in person experience the virtual world.

“The interactive installation is where users experience the story using their bodies as the interface, but it translates to the online world too,” Dao said.

Dao believes virtual reality immersion will transform the way more people experience film in the future.

“There is huge potential for a new way to tell stories as the environment changes and how you perceive and respond to the story,” Dao said. “This is just the first version for us and we’re excited to see how this can be more interactive and intuitive.”

Sure, my glimpse into gambling dens and telegraph offices — which don’t even exist today — was partially laid out for me as a part of a larger story. The best tool for exploring the past might be something that, to many, is straight from the future.


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