Boston Students Are Turning Classic Novel Ulysses Into A VR Experience

by Jamie Feltham • March 20th, 2017

We’re seeing a surprising eagerness from creatives to turn classic novels into VR experiences. Winking Entertainment is trying its hand at retelling ancient Chinese story, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, inside the HTC Vive, and now a group from the Boston College is attempting to do the same for James Joyce’s Ulysses.

The Irish tale is nearining its centenial anniversary as a completed series, having first been published in its entirity in 1922 after being released in serialised form. Now Joyce scholar Joseph Nugent is working with a team of college students to translate the epic from paper to virtual reality in a project called Joycestick. You can watch an introduction to it in a trailer below.

The team is taking scenes from the novel and imagining what they might look like in reality, complete with all the interactivit and immersion provided by the Vive and it’s position-tracked controls. You’ll find yourself in environments styled after Joyce’s descriptions and time periods and explore areas for items that will trigger readings from the text.

Jugent himself says that the prospect of Joycestick has “transformed” his career. “As much as I love literature, my traditional training hadn’t offered me the kind of fulfillment that comes from the kind of cutting-edge research technology has made possible,” he says on the project’s official page.

“We look on VR as the ultimate empathy machine, in that we don’t simply want to excite the readers – the viewers – but to move them, to engage them with the emotions and events in the book.”

Though select press saw the project earlier this month, it’s set to make its full debut in Dublin on June 16th, which is the very day the novel itself plays out in 1904. We’ll be very interested to see how this plays out, not just because it could be a quality VR experience but because it could pave the way for a new stream of source materials for others to experiment with.

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  • unreal_ed

    Love that trailer. Clearly low budget as they re-use simple assets but they nailed the soundtrack by a classical score so much better than so many games or ads.

  • unreal_ed

    I think there kind of is a spectrum going from imagination to visual immersion but literature and VR are just about both ends of that spectrum. Pretty surprising that someone would move from one to the other. Also, seems like it would be hard to mash both ends of said spectrum together in an experience