Paramount Hosts Interstellar Oculus Rift Experience
I went to space. I've seen the stars and the distant worlds that occupy the endless, mysterious vacuum above us. I went where few have gone before, leaving behind everything I knew as "home."
Well, actually, let me clarify. My mind went to space, and not in a way that intends "I've finally gone insane." My physical self sat in a chair (quite comfortable if I may add) at the AMC Lowes in Lincoln Square and strapped on an Oculus Rift to take part in an experience based around Christopher Nolan's upcoming film Interstellar. Aside from a handful of photos, posters and teasers inspiring us as humanity heads into its unknown future, Interstellar, much like many of Nolan's past films, has been shrouded in mystery. What better way to jump into it than by hopping into the world yourself?
Your view of the great unknown begins from behind a window on the spaceship Endurance. Through your headset, you are instructed to make your way through the ship and prepare for zero gravity. The organizers of the event encourage you to look all around you, not just stare forward – and once you do so, it clicks: this feels like an out of body experience. I'm not moving myself but I feel as if I am a part of the body that is. I can see every nook and cranny of the ship and every detail of its contents.
After moving through a few rooms, they drop the gravity (and your chair), and suddenly you feel like you're floating. As you ascend through the ship towards the cockpit, objects float in zero gravity and I turned my head as I pass them by, seeing them exist there still, occupying that same space. And this is when that out of body experience started to feel real. The environment you are immersed in suddenly feels like it exists. It's no longer a ride, or a massive flat screen that holds depth within the frame. It's no longer something we can so easily pull ourselves out of by looking at our phones or the person next to us. Everything we see, everything we hear, feels tangible and exists within an entirely new world – a world that our minds now believe to be the real thing.
I can slump in my seat and tilt my head to get a better view of what's outside my window. Spatially I feel relevant, like I belong. I am not an omniscient controller telling a camera where to go and how to act. The thin wire that connects us to movies and games is now stronger than ever.
The final seconds of the "ride" have you strap in to the pilot's seat as you prepare to enter a wormhole. As the countdown begins, and the engines of the Endurance start to hum louder and louder, I couldn't help but close my eyes to brace for… Whatever it may be. It's moments like these that make an experience with the rift much more impactful. In your mind it's real and you will react accordingly.
The first teaser for Interstellar has Matthew McConaughey saying "…we are still pioneers, and we've barely begun…" It's entirely too fitting to have an experience like this with that in mind. This is only the beginning of what these will experiences will be able to provide. As the Oculus Rift, and technologies like it, improve dramatically, the opportunities for filmmakers to tell their stories in ever more immersive ways will as well. Buckle up.