Review Of Oculus’ First In-House VR Film “Lost”

Oculus just premiered its Story Studio’s first virtual reality cinema experience Lost that’s designed to demonstrate the narrative potential of VR to filmmakers. The experience features a massive robotic hand traipsing around a darkened forest in search of its body. While cute, the film doesn’t push the limits of VR much.

All the action takes place directly in front of you, with just one scene overhead. It’s not interactive, and doesn’t require you to follow the action far out of a primary frame. While the forest feels immersive in VR, the film could work just fine as a film, and that’s somewhat of a failure considering the point of Story Studio.

Beyond “Lost”, Oculus’ Pixar exec-led Story Studio has five more experiences in the works, including: “Dear Angelica” which puts viewers in an illustration, “Bullfighter” which puts you in the ing facing down a raging bull, and “Henry” which demonstrates the potential of comedy in VR.

As I detailed in my launch story on Story Studio this morning, filmmakers aren’t quite sure how to build experiences in VR. The goal of the studio is to pioneer narrative VR and share the insights and experiences with filmmakers and the public.

Lost’s Story

The narrative of Lost goes like this (spoiler alert): You appear in a darkened forest with fireflies flitting about around you, full moonlight shimmering through the trees. You’re left to soak in the scene, listening to the almost ominous quiet of the woods at night. Suspense builds as you await something to happen. As with anything reminiscent of a horror film in VR, it’s easy to worry something might sneak up behind and scare you.

When a mechanize beep starts to echo through the trees, you can only assume you’re about to be confronted with a terrifying robot. But what stumbles out of the flora is the severed hand of a giant robot, with the personality of a lost dog. It sniffs around, walking in circles searching for clues before it notices you. As it approaches, you’ll want to take a step back. And since it’s being shown on the Oculus Crescent bay which allows a few feet of motion tracking, you actually can.

Once the hand gives you the once over, it bumbles back into the clearing ahead of you. Suddenly, it starts beeping more vigorously and waves its “tail” that would connect it to a robotic wrist. In the distance, you hear a rumble, and if you turn to look, you’ll see a giant robot lumbering through the forest, crushing trees underfoot.

As it gets close, pushing through the branches, you’re showered with leaves fluttering down from above. Once reunited with its hand, the iron giant presses its enormous light-up smiley face up to yours. And the screen goes dark.

In terms of polish, Lost is worthy of the Pixar guys who made. The animation is gorgeous, smooth, and stylish. The story employs a typical Pixar trick of making you think something scary will happen only to then bombard you with cuteness.

Lost will be shown to media and guests today at Sundance Film Festival. Eventually, the plan is to make Lost publicly available alongside the launch of the first consumer-grade Oculus Rift later this year, potentially through Oculus’ experience store.

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