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Hands-on with the Oculus Rift, the newest medium for radical storytelling

by Carina Chocano and The Frame Staff | The Frame

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In this Jan. 7, 2014 file photo, show attendees play a video game wearing Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets at the Intel booth at the International Consumer Electronics Show(CES), in Las Vegas. Many backers who helped it raise more than $2.4 million through Kickstarter in 2012 were shocked last week when Oculus announced it was selling itself to social media company Facebook for $2 billion. Jae C. Hong/AP

It sort of feels like the Oculus Rift has been in development forever, but it's only been two years since its insanely successful Kickstarter campaign brought it widespread attention. Oh, and Oculus being bought by Facebook for $2 billion didn't hurt its visibility, either. Despite all of the money and excitement, Oculus Rift headsets are still not for sale.

However, that hasn't stopped visual effects artists and filmmakers from getting in on the action. The Oculus Rift was originally designed by Palmer Luckey to be the platform for the most immersive video games ever, but the technology's been embraced by storytellers in Hollywood that don't just want to show you a story; they want you to be right there in that world.

As the Oculus Rift nears release — there's no official release date yet, but rumors suggest it will go on sale within the next two years — the technology's capability for Virtual Reality storytelling will only become more and more realized. But right now the Oculus Rift is just on the threshold, which leaves multiple questions floating around. It's more than, "What stories should we tell? Instead it's, How do we even use this technology to tell a story?"

Writer Carina Chocano dove firsthand into the blossoming world of VR storytelling for the inaugural issue of California Sunday Magazine, and somehow she survived descents into the afterlife, being attacked atop The Great Wall of "Game of Thrones," and a studio session with a trained pianist. Chocano adapted her piece for us here at The Frame, and we've pulled together some clips from the VR stories she watched to help augment your listening experience.

Senza Peso

One of the most impressive and ambitious VR pieces yet, "Senza Peso" takes you from life to death in a journey through the afterlife. The video, put together by Kite & Lightning, is clearly designed for the Oculus Rift, but even on a flat computer screen it's really something to watch.


Ascend The Wall

One of the most iconic elements of "Game of Thrones," The Wall is a towering fortress designed to protect the people of the north from tribes of wildlings, White Walkers, and all the scary things that can only be found north of The Wall (trust me, I feel like a huge nerd after writing that sentence).

Framestore is a visual-effects studio that won an Academy Award for its work on "Gravity," and they worked with the "Game of Thrones" to create a four-dimensional piece at South by Southwest in which a viewer is taken up The Wall only to witness an attack by a horde of wildlings.

Bonus: if you go to Framestore's page on the project you can find an Instagram video of "Game of Thrones" star Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) losing her mind while being taken up The Wall.

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