Various events have sprung up as VR and AR continue to grow and conferences and showcases focused solely on the technologies are certainly needed, but it’s encouraging to see it break ground along with other industries. The Sundance Film Festival, started in 1978, has grown into the largest independent film festival in the US and presents works from American and international filmmakers alike.
New Frontier, a Sundance exhibit created in 2007, is the home of the more unique and pioneering techniques for storytelling in the film arena so it’s no surprise they’ll have a large AR and VR showing at this upcoming Sundance. With what could be a pivotal moment for the festival as a whole taking place, we spoke with the Director and Curator of New Frontier, Shari Frilot, about the event’s set-up and potential.
Virtually reality on display at events like these usually falls into a pocket where you simply have sections of an area dedicated to headsets organized in different ways. Augmented reality has the opportunity to put more unique installations in place, sometimes with VR involved, and New Frontier will be taking advantage of this. There will be three specific AR related showings: Benjamin Muzzin’s holographic sculpture “Full Turn”, Melissa Painter’s “Heroes” which involves Hololens and VR headsets, and Daniella Segal’s “Journey to the Center of the Natural Machine” which is powered by the Meta 2 headset.
“To my knowledge, the Hologram room in the 2017 New Frontier Exhibition will be the first major showing of works engaging with AR headsets in a cultural setting,” Frilot says. “It’s the bleeding edge of how this technology is being embraced by storytellers and artistic content creators.”
Frilot recognizes that these displays could be crucial for the future of New Frontier and, if other artists decide that AR is a canvas they wish to work upon, Sundance will consider their work for future exhibits. “I personally believe it is a powerful and compelling medium, so, as I have done with VR, I’ve also been talking the tech up to various artists/creator in hopes that they will engage the medium and generate work we can consider for future shows,” she continues. “If other cultural institutions follow our lead as they have in the past, that would be thrilling to witness.”
Much like the Stanford researchers we’ve reported on previously, VR is a dynamic way to inform people on the realities and dangers of climate change. New Frontier’s environmental awareness exhibition, The New Climate, is the result of a recent boom in narratives centered on the topic in New Frontier and in the films program.
Frilot notes that, within New Frontier specifically, “we are seeing powerful immersive experiences that let you experience, and even inhabit, climate change – this year, you get to experience what it’s like to be a tree in the rainforest, to stand on the icy riverbanks of melting Greenland ice, or go underwater to witness coral bleaching in front of your eyes.”
Climate change isn’t an overtly exciting topic to digest and text or standard video can only do so much to engage audiences. VR is another beast entirely. “Instead of your brain learning about these situations, your body will experience them first hand, and you will remember these New Climate stories as something that actually happened to you,” Frilot explains. “This is a profound and, in my view, a much needed perspective.”
2016 was an incredible year for VR and AR, laying the foundations for both industries to thrive. In 2017, many questions will have to be answered and opening the year with CES and a large showing at Sundance will highlight the industries from different angles. Sundance takes place January 19th-29th in Park City, Utah, and you can find event info here and also look into ways to volunteer. Be sure to check out all of the different experiences available at New Frontier including the VR film “Asteroids!” we previously covered and plan out your schedule accordingly.