Opinion: VR is a new reality of storytelling

Have you ever wanted to relive your dreams? What about creating your own story in virtual reality? One booth at the L.A. Times Festival of Books just might have made my dreams become a reality.

The Festival of Books, held at USC on April 13 and 14, was host to hundreds of authors, magazines, publishers, short stories, graphic novels, and LA book-lovers all in the name of celebrating stories. Most of these, of course, took the form of an ancient, but still beloved medium: the book.

However, the “NewStory” area of the festival was all about pioneering new ways of telling stories in the 21st century — by foregoing books altogether. Exhibits ranged from immersive audio jackets to augmented comics, and my favorite: VR.

But what made the Reach VR experience different than previous ones I’ve written about is that you actually create your own interactive virtual narratives. By simply dragging and dropping 3D hologram-like robots within a website, I was walking around a VR spaceship within minutes.

Reach VR aims to democratize the development of VR apps by making the tools accessible on any device, even your phone. Once you create the environment in Reach’s website, you can experience your own story on mobile devices as well as high-end headsets like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.

Chaitanya Shah, a Creative Technologist at Reach’s parent company Emblematic Group, explained how Reach aims to be an accessible way for people to experience VR.

“[Most] people do not know how to code. Reach is a really simple intro way to get into VR. Normally a complex VR piece takes five to 10 months and only works with one or two kinds of headsets,” Shah said. “[Reach VR] makes it easy and quick to create experiences for journalism or casual storytelling, volumetric storytelling, events. We’ve received really good responses.”

Since the Reach platform exists on a website, more people can potentially be able to try your experience.

“No one is going to download an app. [Our platform] removes all the walled gardens on all the headsets,” Shah said. “We saw a use case where a professor at the University of Las Vegas used photogrammetry around anthropology. He used our platform to tell volumetric stories on his raw discoveries, his anthropology.”

There’s no doubt that VR will play a big role in the future of storytelling. 

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