Virtual reality and the future of storytelling

I’m stretching out a bit this week to take a look at what could be the future of storytelling.  In the article Virtual Reality Lets the Audience Step Into the Story by Olivia Koski we get a glimpse at the prospects for storytelling when it incorporates virtual reality.  With virtual reality technology becoming much more accessible to the average person over the past few years, it is now time to think about how this technology will affect our use of storytelling in the classroom.  Koski shares a number of scenarios where the story takes on a whole new dimension with the immersion of the participant in the middle of the story in ways that we could only imagine a few years ago.  Although this article is focused on how reporters can use virtual reality to share their stories, the same holds true for teachers in the classroom.

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Michael Brown was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.  Now, thanks to the efforts of graphic journalist Dan Archer it is possible to put ourselves into the middle of the situation that occurred on that evening. And it’s possible to enter that virtual reality from a number of different perspectives, whether it’s Michael Brown, or officer Wilson, or as friends of Michael Brown, or even as bystanders recording the incident.  This ability to place ourselves, or our students, in the middle of historical events has tremendous implications for storytelling as a teaching practice.  Not only will students be able to view the events as if they were there, but they can view it from the many different perspectives that surround every event.  And with the inclusion of gaming theory and the ability to interact with the people in the story to change the course of events, it gives students the ability to explore the many “what if” scenarios that can increase understanding.

Project Syria is another virtual reality project where the participant is standing on a corner in Aleppo, Syria when a bomb goes off.  They see the chaos, fear, and pain of the surrounding individuals as they run from the scene or lie bleeding on the street.  They also visit a refugee camp where there is a continuous stream of new people showing up. Students can feel like they are actually experiencing the events that they hear about in the news. Scenes like these can tell a story beyond any 2 dimensional media.  Nonny de la Pena, creator of the Syria experience, feels that,  ” the virtue of virtual reality is that it puts ‘people inside the story so they can experience the action as it unfolds. [It] allows you to experience stories in a visceral way'”.  The stories of the people in the scene can resonate with the participants in new and interesting ways as they explore different individuals in the virtual reality.

And Koski also writes about some of the work that is being done on two of the biggest problems with current virtual reality systems.  One is the feeling of continuous motion that can make some people feel sick to their stomach.  Work is being done to fix the lag time problems that often cause these problems.  The second big issue is that it takes a lot of effort to put together these virtual reality sessions, which makes it difficult for individuals, such as teachers or reporters, to put together the sessions.  David Dufresne of MIT is currently working on software that would offer templates that story developers can use to greatly reduce the time and effort to put together a story.

Immersive virtual reality will likely change the way we tell stories in the near future.  There are still a number of hurdles to overcome, such as the cost of getting the technology into classrooms, and learning to think of stories in a non-linear fashion, but with the innovations that we are currently seeing in virtual reality storytelling, it won’t be long before we see students traveling to far away places while they sit in their classrooms.

 

9 thoughts on “Virtual reality and the future of storytelling

  1. Hello David,

    This has intrigued my interest in virtual reality and how it is going to affect the classroom and other learning environments. There is an argument that this tech will fade into the background and become just a memory. For now, it seems to be gaining speed and the accessibility is becoming greater. I would also include 3D tech with VR, when the two are combined the experience becomes even more powerful.

    I like the examples used and how VR users can gain a different perspective on an incident. These two examples used are graphic and can even be horrifying for some. While this VR experience creates a very powerful emotional response, could it not be defined by the tech and be virtual as well? We as a society are already prone to violence and hardship portrayed on television through the 24-hour news cycles and even reality TV programs. Could this be where VR will also lead us?

    I do believe that VR tech is very valuable. I would like to see how VR could be used to improve industrial processes, medical advancements, or space exploration. We have only just begun to explore VR and its possible uses. It will be interesting to see where it goes.

    Matt

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  2. Hi David,
    This is a very interesting article! I love that you are focusing on where digital storytelling could go in the future, with the release of the oculus rift and the PS4 VR, I think your article is very relevant to what’s going on in our world today. I can see how virtual reality could enhance storytelling by allowing people to be apart of the story, this could be a very powerful and emotional experience for those going through it. As a teacher, I think it would be a great opportunity for students to experience history and other events, I just hope that the content would be appropriate for the students. This is a great idea and very insightful, I look forward to seeing this progress in the future.

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  3. David,

    What a great article! I love the idea of using a safe environment for students (and others) to experience the world. There are so many applications for this. With the right tools, we can place students in the middle of history, allowing them to get a better sense of how things used to be, we can place them in the middle of wars, we can let them experience other cultures and countries… the possibilities seem endless. I can also see a military application where military personnel can run various scenarios in as close to a real world setting as possible before they actually put them into action. There are probably also many therapeutic application to this technology. Families that can’t afford to travel physically, can travel virtually and get the benefits of being exposed to other cultures that used to be out of their reach. IT’s technology and possibilities like this that make me wish I were being born now 🙂

    Thank you!

    Karen

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  4. Um…mind blown! The idea of students being in the middle of a historical event is so exciting! On the other hand, being in the middle of a disaster is terrifying. The possibilities with this technology are truly endless it may seem. I, however, am one of those motion sick people and will be interested to see how the technology compensates for the disorienting motion. Man, technology is cool! Hehe 🙂

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