Perhaps the most unusual technical demonstration made available for Samsung’s recently unveiled Gear VR thus far, Hold on to Your Seat is a new and unique production from Cirque de Soleil Media. It’s theatre made specifically for virtual reality (VR), and though it’s only a few minutes long it hold the key to what could be – and possibly should be – the future of motion-picture experiences.
The sequence begins with the viewer sat upon a chair on the front-centre of the stage. Looking behind you reveals an empty auditorium, save for the cleaner who minds his own business throughout the whole performance. Ahead of you comes 10 ghostly white figures, dressed head-to-toe in Tim Burton-esque neo-gothic fashion. Challenging and yet inviting at the same time, these nameless characters take their seats beside you. Turning to look at them reveals moments of passive interaction: they will talk to you and invite you to look back ahead at the stage, but never will they ask you to do anything more than move your head. Furthermore, never will they distract you from the centrepiece action.
Two trapeze artists take centre stage just a metre or so in front of you. Ropes descend from the ceiling and immediate the pair begin to impress with their display of ability and courage. Ascending and descending, spinning one another faster and faster with no direct connection to the ropes and no safety net, the performance is incredibly impressive when taken onboard from just an arm’s stretch away.
Hold on to Your Seat is just a few short minutes, yet it proved to be one of the most immersive experiences yet showcased for Gear VR. It’s a proof of concept and nothing more, yet it’s an incredibly well devised, impressive one nonetheless. The passion of the actors is almost tangible and the fact that the sidelined performers are always there to pick you up, but never pull your focus, is an incredibly rewarding design decision. Hold on to Your Seat is a landmark moment for VR video and hopefully a full release will be made public in due course.