Pulse on VR Exhibition Showcases Canada's Best in VR
By Eric Weiss ● June 29, 2017 14:15
On Monday, June 26, CFC Media Lab, OMERS Ventures and Nordicity teamed up to publish the first wave of data for Pulse on VR: A Living Ecosystem, a study that provides an ongoing look at the Virtual Reality (VR) landscape in Canada and the industry’s capacity for growth and change.
As a part of this launch and in celebration of Canada Day, CFC Media Lab is also presenting the Pulse on VR Exhibition, a weeklong showcase from some of Canada’s most exciting homegrown VR companies. The exhibition allows visitors to sample premium VR content without any of the hassle or cost normally associated with its setup, which can help cultivate an audience and build a more stable VR market for the future.
The Pulse on VR Exhibition opened on Tuesday, June 27 and will run until Sunday, July 2 at the House of VR (639 Queen St. West) in downtown Toronto. The bright, spacious venue has multiple VR viewing stations on each floor, each equipped with its own headset dangling from the ceiling to allow for unencumbered movement. Part-art installation and part-arcade, the exhibition is free and open to the public – a don’t-miss opportunity if you’re curious about VR or have never experienced it for yourself.
All of the content at the exhibition was created by critically-acclaimed and award-winning Canadian companies and artists, and speaks to the international pedigree of our Canadian VR ecosystem. Here are just some of the innovative experiences you can have:
MasterpieceVR represents the evolution of fine art. Developed by Ottawa’s Brinx Software, MasterpieceVR is an artistic suite that allows users to paint and sculpt in Virtual Reality. The high-tech palette gives anyone the ability to create stunning, three-dimensional works of art, while the impressive online capabilities make it possible for artists from around the world to exist in the same virtual space while collaborating on a single project. The collaborative nature of MasterpieceVR is unique in the world. Not even the much-touted Google Tiltbrush or Oculus Medium, both VR art-making tools, have this capability.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a professional artist to enjoy MasterpieceVR. The software gives everyone the freedom to experiment, and it’s a lot of fun to make a mess when you don’t have to worry about getting paint all over the carpet.
Blasters of the Universe
Blasters of the Universe showcases VR’s potential as a gaming platform. Developed by Toronto’s Secret Location (the first company to win the first-ever Emmy award for a VR experience), the highly polished action game is a futuristic shooter in which you need to block and dodge incoming projectiles while taking out your enemies as quickly as possible.
While the gameplay utilizes many familiar tropes, the unique format allows for a far more immersive experience. The viewing booths at the House of VR are designed to give you a free range of motion, allowing you to play Blasters of the Universe without having to worry about tripping over wires or crashing into walls. It offers a glimpse of an arcade of the future, delivering a thrilling game in a comfortable setup that would be challenging to replicate at home.
The Gallery, Episode 2, “Heart of the Emberstone”
B.C.’s Cloudhead Games is the darling of the HTV Vive gaming community. The Gallery’s Episode 1, “Call of the Starseed,” is being touted as one of the best launch titles on the Vive. The Gallery is an episodic fantasy puzzle game that drops you into ruins that would flummox Indiana Jones. Pick up and examine various digital objects to crack locks and advance the story – which means that The Gallery is essentially an escape room without the worry of breaking props. With a deliberate pace that gives you time to think through every step, The Gallery is an effective counterpoint to a more kinetic game like Blasters of the Universe, proving that VR can support video games that cater to different tastes.
For the Pulse on VR Exhibition, Cloudhead Games gives audiences a sneak peek at the much-anticipated Episode 2, “Heart of the Emberstone,” slated for release this September. You don’t need to have played the first episode to appreciate the technology, for the demo has a wonderful sense of place that allows you to explore a fantasy world with a captivating level of fidelity.
Small Wonders: The VR Experience
Created by a collaboration between the Art Gallery of Ontario conservator Lisa Ellis and interactive artist/designer Priam Givord that was produced by the CFC Media Lab and Seneca College, the award-winning Small Wonders: The VR Experience is not to be missed. This VR experience is drawn from the international Small Wonders exhibition, which was created by and is being staged at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the MET Cloisters and the Rijksmuseum. That show features dozens of Gothic boxwood miniatures from the early sixteenth century, and Small Wonders: The VR Experience is making this short stop at the House of VR before it moves on to the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul, Korea.
Small Wonders: The VR Experience takes one of these miniatures – a carved bead no bigger than a golf ball – and blows it up to massive proportions with the help of micro-commuted tomography (basically a 3D scan) and VR technologies, which allows you to enter and move through or around the entire bead. Even at scale, the VR experience manages to convey an astonishing amount of information. The bead opens like a locket to reveal an intricately layered religious scene with an entire wall of worshipers and a full representations of heaven, hell and purgatory. Thanks to VR, you’re able to peel apart those layers and examine the bead from angles that would be inaccessible in real life, allowing you to identify individual wood grains and the haunting expression on every pious or tortured face.
Small Wonders also highlights VR’s utility as a research tool, for its ability to amplify the natural world offers a powerful aesthetic lens of extensive detail on an extremely small surface. The enhanced perspective generates and deepens respect for the exquisite craftsmanship that went into the creation of such a tiny work of art by hand – centuries before anything like VR was on the scene.
Nominated for a 2017 Canadian Screen Award, Cut-Off is a powerful 360-degree video documentary that tracks Justin Trudeau’s visit to Shoal Lake 40, an isolated First Nations reserve between Ontario and Manitoba. Produced by OccupiedVR, Vice Canada, the National Film Board of Canada and CFC Media Lab, the documentary digs into the social and infrastructural problems facing the residents of the area, including the high suicide rate and limited access to clean water, each of which is compounded by the region’s isolation.
Though Trudeau is the most recognizable figure in the film, Cut-Off is filmed from the perspectives of the residents of Shoal Lake 40, as the residents share their stories directly with the camera. Here, VR provides immediacy and context often missing in more traditional filmmaking. It makes Cut-Off a powerful reminder of the things that people take for granted, especially in contrast with the resources in a densely populated urban centre like Toronto.
The People’s House: Inside the White House with Barack and Michelle Obama
There are three Felix & Paul Studios' critically-acclaimed projects on show, including this one, The People’s House, a 360-degree video tour of the White House hosted by Barack and Michelle Obama that already feels like a relic from a forgotten era. The documentary takes you through nine of the most famous rooms in the White House, including the Oval Office, Situation Room and Lincoln Bedroom.
In many ways a by-the-numbers documentary, The People’s House achieves a solemn grace thanks to the presence of the Obamas. The former President and First Lady are, as always, poised, and their narration conveys a deep respect both for the history of the building and for the institution of the American Presidency. Informative yet personal and personable, they mix American trivia with anecdotes from their time in office that exemplify their own relationship to the building that was their home.
This unexpectedly candid piece of modern myth-making also restores some of the dignity that feels like it’s been in short supply in recent months. The People’s House makes the storied yet imposing residence feel surprisingly intimate, once again demonstrating VR’s ability to transport the viewer into a tangible environment.
The Pulse on VR Exhibition (free admission) is on until July 2 at House of VR, 639 Queen St. West, in Toronto.
Thursday, June 29: 12-10PM
Friday, June 30: 12-8PM
Saturday, July 1: 12-8PM
Sunday, July 2: 12-8PM