There is just something special about strapping a pair of virtual reality goggles onto one’s face and teleporting into computer-generated realms. Lights, colors, and flashing sounds are mixed in with every VR experience out there now. The trick though is to find the right combination, evoking emotions along the way. Although there are approximately hundreds of demos floating around, few truly capture the power of the medium to a psychedelic extend. WEVR’s “Virtual Brainload” developed for Adult Swim is one of the rare ones – making it a must see experience.
We got a glimpse of the demo at the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality (SVVR) conference earlier this year. I was tipped off to the project by a pair of white sunglasses with the name “Adult Swim” on them at the WEVR booth. A cardboard headset lay nearby. Remarkably, the virtual reality-focused production studio in Venice known as WEVR secured a partnership with the cable network Adult Swim, which is a part of the late night programming of Cartoon Network. The results are a visual treat for the eyes.
When loading up the Cardboard VR demo, the user finds themselves on a black and white checked dock in the middle of an ocean. There are three doors on each side. The sky changes color depending on the time of day. At dusk, the horizon is beautifully lit yellow, orange, and purple. Two of the entrance ways are chained up, leaving one red door unlocked.
Sliding down the magnetic ring while looking in the right direction sparks the experience, priming the person for a wild ride. Electronic sounds surge, and the environment fades to black. Soon, twirling keys in several colors fly by as transportative music sets the tone for the trip. It feels like traveling through another dimension, especially when one of the keys splits into a portal of changing light; leaving behind trails as it goes. Shortly thereafter, what seems like hundreds of eyes appear within the stary night sky.
Poke your head into Adult Swim’s Virtual Brainload and gaze in awe at the backside of reality. You’ll live the American dream, drifting bodiless and overwhelmed, free from the tyranny of choice and responsibility. But caution: Parts of this journey will test your mind as well as your body and the person who emerges may not be anyone you know.
Then, a range of neon symbols expand from the darkness, passing by the perspective of the user like walls of brilliant patterns found only in the “backside of reality.” Out of nowhere, the scene transitions into a rollercoaster ride through an M.C. Escher-esque world of stairs. At this point, the vibe is similar to the famous painted realm of Relativity where “the normal laws of gravity do not apply.” While moving through the space, primordial chants echo all around.
Once the coaster comes to a finish, the user is submerged in water – possibly in the ocean underneath the beginning dock location. Fish swim about as toxic waste bins float in with the occasional spiked mine. Above, a bright and tranquil light peers down below. Jelly fish surround the area, flickering on and off with fluorescent beams of color.
Water scenes are one of WEVR’s specialties. They have been experimenting with what it means to bring the expansive nature of the ocean to people through the use of technology for years. They developed an experience called theBlu which was evolved from a 2D screen into a VR demo for Samsung’s Gear VR and further into a room-scale environment with the HTC Vive. Their expertise in this realm is unmatched, and this section of buoyancy and weightless in the “Virtual Brainload” capitalizes on that aquatic scenario perfectly.
The development team did a fantastic job at transitions as well. They bring the user from the watery depths into a bright light above and then into a pit of fire, like it was nothing. The ending scene begins after the flames evaporate and patriotic music emerges. Symbols of American indulgence dance in circles. Beer bottles, donuts, cigarettes…etc. Duplicates of Mount Rushmore with eyes popping out look around. Turkeys wearing football helmets hop while the colors of the US flag are everywhere. Bald eagles with enormous grins smirk with red eyes and gold teeth in a freaky type of way.
It all concludes with a popup saying that the system has crashed, asking the user if they want to leave. Two buttons each with the word “No” on them show. A computer mouse hovers over and clicks one of the buttons automatically, causing the area to dissolve. It is a mind melting scene, that delights in such a weird and trippy way.
Despite the spectacular nature of the experience, there were a few optimizations issues I encountered. First off, the demo felt a little bit thrown together. Turns out that video was provided by Adult Swim and WEVR modified it for VR. Parts of the moving images subtly jumped and glitched in places. This made the experience rough and not smoothed out here and there.
Still, the overall experience hit mind melting levels. I can envision mass amounts of cartoon lovers purchasing a cheap cardboard headset and watching this over and over. Not to mention it is free to get! Again, WEVR has set the bar for their VR experiences, and we look forward to what they do next.
For more information about what WEVR is up to, visit their website here: http://wevr.com/about