Next 12 months’s Sundance Film Festival will mark a momentous return to Park City, Utah, after in-person festivities have been cancelled final 12 months. But Sundance is not giving up on the digital platforms it used to stream movies and produce cinephiles right into a VR social hub final January. As a part of its New Frontier exhibition, Sundance plans to increase The Spaceship, its digital venue the place attendees can chat collectively and discover VR and combined actuality artwork installations.

In an effort to attach Sundance’s in-person attendees with its international on-line viewers, the Festival can even launch a “Biodigital Bridge” in Park City. Shari Frilot, Sundance’s Senior Programmer and Chief Curator of New Frontier, describes it as a human-scale display screen the place bodily and digital attendees will be capable of work together with one another. Developed along with the immersive studio Active Theory, the bridge will supply fundamental chat assist, however it’s principally a means for Sundance-goers to see how different attendees benefit from the occasion.

Sundance New Frontier curator Shari Frilot.

Sundance Film Festival

Frilot says New Frontier has been pushing the idea of biodigital experiences for a number of years now, principally via an exploration of how expertise can intersect with our lives. Think of the way in which that an app like Uber, and even Google Maps, has reshaped the way in which we navigate bodily areas. But now that the pandemic has pressured us to depend on our tech greater than ever — Sundance would not have been attainable with out it final 12 months, in spite of everything — the time period appears virtually prescient. It’s greater than only a buzzword: Frilot says she’s interested by exploring the expertise that finest serves humanity, or Team Human, as media theorist Douglas Rushkoff put it.

Last 12 months, I discovered Sundance’s on-line platform final 12 months to be a captivating method to discover the pageant and work together with followers. The core of the expertise is the aforementioned Spaceship, which permits attendees on computer systems and VR headsets to mull about collectively. On a laptop computer or desktop, it resembles a stripped down model of Second Life. You stroll round as simplistic avatars, and when you select, it’s also possible to flip in your webcam, which fills your avatar’s head with a stay video feed. Since Sundance’s platform is constructed on WebXR, a method to ship digital actuality over the online, you’ll be able to enter that very same house in VR by slipping on any headset and visiting Sundance’s web site.

Sundance Film Festival 2022 New Frontier

Sundance Film Festival

Compared to SXSW’s VR platform, which appeared stunning however principally felt like a digital wasteland, it was clear that Sundance acquired one thing proper final 12 months. After isolating for many of 2020, with the ability to see a lot of my cinephile associates in VR made final 12 months’s Sundance really feel particular. So for subsequent 12 months, Frilot says, the pageant goes even additional. The Spaceship will probably be upgraded with a brand new Cinema House, the place attendees on computer systems and VR headsets can view occasions livestreamed from Park City, in addition to room-scale discussions.

On the bottom, Sundance can even have a brand new house known as The Craft, which can let in-person attendees go to New Frontier displays, artist discussions and panels. There can even be VR headsets to make use of, although the pageant can be encouraging folks to carry their very own gear if they have it. Sundance hasn’t finalized its listing of New Frontier displays but, however Frilot tells me many artists are optimizing for the Oculus Quest 2, so fest-goers can expertise their work with out being related to a PC. But there’ll doubtless nonetheless be items that demand a critical VR rig. Sundance’s famed Egyptian theater can even host some New Frontier performances, which can happen each on the bottom and just about on the Spaceship.

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