FutureScot goes to FuturePlay

Wearing VR headset and controller at FuturePlay in Edinburgh

FutureScot were invited to a preview of the Virtual Reality Studio at FuturePlay last week and after fleeing from the torrential rain into the white dome structure outside the Assembly Rooms where the studio has been set up, we spent an hour or so immersing ourselves in various virtual worlds.

Last year’s FuturePlay had us floating in a virtual sky with a (sadly) virtual Michael Fassbender so it was going to be interesting to see if this year could top that memorable experience.

First up: non-VR

There’s a massive amount of stuff crammed into the relatively small dome, not all of it virtual reality. This means that you’ll definitely be able to keep yourself busy for the 55 minutes you’re allowed to explore the installations.

Some of the non-VR tech we tested was:

Dead Pixels

If there’s any part of you that has secret megalomaniac tendencies, this is a way for you to let these reign free for a while without…you know, starting any wars.

It’s an extremely simple, yet addictive game. There’s a screen with different coloured pixels on it, and nine joysticks in corresponding colours. Using these, you simply try to cover as much of the screen as possible with ‘your’ colour and after 60 seconds, the person whose colour covers the most pixels wins.

I got very into this game and managed to systematically cover almost the whole screen in blue (my colour!). The satisfaction I felt at the utter defeat of my components worried me slightly.

Dato DUO

Dato DUO is a “musical intrument for making electronic music together”. It’s essentially a box with loads of buttons on it, i.e. the absolute dream object for a button-pushing afficionado like myself.

I got paired up with a stranger for this one, we put on headphones, controlled a side of the box each and made electronic music together. It was kind of beautiful. Someone should get world leaders to do this together and then there’d be no wars. I’m sure of it.

Second up: Lots of VR

The star of the show, however, was still the VR. There are VR headsets scattered all over the room and we only had a chance to sample a small number of them, so there was probably lots of great stuff we missed.

A couple of the VR experiences we tested were:

Abstraction T2

I must confess that I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on in this one so I will quote the description in the brochure: “Cutting edge technology meets award-winning contemporary dance. A unique VR experience […] designed to take you on an immersive and visceral journey.”

I guess I… floated through the air, next to giant dancing bodies, while shooting white dots into the air, using a controller. The VR for this was incredibly immersive, so while I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, I still definitely recommend trying it.

Pretending to know what I’m doing.

First impressions

First Impressions is created by Guardian’s in-house VR team and “enables viewers to explore how a baby sees the world during the first six months of life.”

I won’t spoil this for people who want to try it out themselves, but I found this an almost spooky experience, highlighting a period of our lives that none of us remembers but which must have been so formative for all of us.

Another note is that I watched this on a Google VR headset which I haven’t tried before and I wasn’t very impressed with the quality of the headset. To my untrained eyes, it seemed barely better than a Google Cardboard (which, admittedly, I love).

What’s next?

I’m excited about the FuturePlay Arcade Party on August 14 where you can “party and play classic arcade games and pinball machines in an 80s New York dive bar.”

Or check out the FuturePlay Sessions, “a diverse programme of talks, panels and showcases where artists, performers, experts and academics discuss and debate the latest trends, challenges and controversies in the worlds of art and tech.”