A Virtual Experience of Solitary Confinement
We have been playing, tinkering and mainly having fun with virtual reality, all in the name of research of course! The sheer number of apps, videos, experiences and games already available is amazing, and we've only really scratch the surface with our research. However one piece of virtual reality content really stood out, and that's "6x9: A Virtual Experience of Solitary Confinement"
Created by The Guarding and The Mill (see more info here), this virtual reality experience is a great example of how a virtual reality experience should be! It places the viewer in a horrible 6x9 cell, and gives us a glimpse onto just what solitary confinement may be like. Let's just say it's not very pleasant!
6x9 is one VR experience that really stand out for us and does so for few reasons. Firstly it's based on interesting and engaging content. Real convicts who have been in solitary confinement talk about their experiences. Even if 6x9 had been a news article, or a pod cast it would have still grabbed my attention.
Secondly the visual experience is good. OK the graphics aren't photo-real, but to me that doesn't matter. The room is dark, dirty, and not a very nice place to be all. The room changes, weird effects happen to suggest different feelings or even hallucinations that an inmate would have. The user is guided through the experience, and one thing I like is that you can look behind you, but the content is delivered in front of the user, so you can sit comfortably on the sofa without having to break your neck or stand up and turnaround to see the content! Sometimes you almost forget about the quality of the CGI as I found myself listening to the audio or reading the graffiti style text.
Thirdly, and perhaps the most important reason why this works so well in my opinion, is that the creators have taken great content, and then chosen the best medium to tell the story through. In this case they've used virtual reality, and by doing so they've enhanced their content and experience. Too often I see people with the thought of "we have VR, how can we use it?". This can lead to badly built experiences, and people simply trying to force their content into virtual reality. Look at how many best selling mobile games are being butchered to use VR, simply to jump on the band wagon to be part of the VR scene. It's lazy, cheep, and will damage the reputation of virtual reality as a medium if we're not creating brilliant content.
Anyway, back on topic. The 6x9 is a lesson in how to produce virtual reality experience. Please check out the app, all you need is a smart phone, Google Cardboard, GearVR or something similar. There's also a little trailer if you can't get your hands on a VR headset....
Enjoy (if that's even possible in a 6x9 cell?).