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Oculus is blending immersive theatre with virtual reality

Professional actors will perform live in a VR environment

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Coming in 2019, Oculus wants to merge immersive theatre with virtual reality, bringing live performances by professional actors into the homes of VR headset owners.

Although the characters seen in the virtual environment would be computer generated, they are the product of live actors performing in motion capture suits. These characters can then be interacted with, leading viewers on different storylines depending on how they react and engage with them.

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The idea comes from a rise in popularity of real-world immersive theatre, where performances take place around the audience. Viewers are encouraged by actors to respond and provide answers which could change the direction of the story.

Oculus wants to blend these flexible story arcs with the ability of VR to create digital environments which wouldn't be possible in the real world. It also means audiences can gather from all over the world for a live performance, without being in the same location or even on the same continent.

In an interview with CNET, Yelena Rachitsky, an executive producer of experience at Facebook-owned Oculus, said: "We're really interested in, how do you create that experience of live actors without needing to be in a site-specific location. It's a way to scale."

The wireless, $199 Oculus Go headset is due to go on sale very soonOculus

Immersive theatre has grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to productions like Sleep No More, a film noir-style take on Macbeth which lets audience members interact with cast members through a large set spanning three warehouses. It debuted in 2011 and is still running in New York City. Over the pond, London events space The Vaults has hosted immersive performances of Alice in Wonderland and The Great Gatsby, where audiences are encouraged to dress up and play along.

If Oculus can pull this off, it would produce an experience which is never the same twice, and which would feel more real than video games, which are typically made up of pre-programmed avatars with set scripts.

Rachtisky's comments come as Oculus owner Facebook prepares to host its F8 developer conference, which kicks off with a keynote address by Mark Zuckerberg at 10am PST (1pm EST) today, May 1.

The event is expected to focus in part on the company's development of virtual reality, in particular the wireless, $199 Oculus Go headset, which opened for pre-order this week but doesn't yet have a shipping date. The device is now listed on Amazon, but with a placeholder release date of December 31.



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