A hero’s quest: Virtual reality worlds are interactive adventure stories for the whole family

30. August 2018

A hero’s quest

Virtual reality worlds are interactive adventure stories for the whole family

Cyril Tuschi. Bild: © Adlershof Journal

Cyril Tuschi

On Sophienstrasse, in the utmost centre of Berlin, there is a gate do a different world. An infinite number of worlds, to be precise. A head-high metal frame on a plywood pedestal, a fan and a smell generator on the wall is all it takes. What looks like fairly spartan setup may instantly transform into a tropical island, Alice’s wonderland or your favourite film. A virtual world that one can smell, feel, hear and taste. Cyril Tuschi and Hubert Hoffmann of the Adlershof-based company You-VR tinker with new worlds and narratives as well as the matching hard and software to create them.

When the online company Facebook bought Oculus Rift in 2014, a company that had developed VR glasses with a large view radius and very fast movement sensors, Mark Zuckerberg reasoned that virtual reality, or VR, is the most social media of them all. However, as the website VR-Focus points out, most of today’s social virtual reality platforms are a fairly lonely experience. “90% of people using VR, use it alone,” explains Tuschi. Social VR, however, is supposed to be a collective experience. When Facebook started investing, VR attracted a lot of money, he remembers, most of which went into developing devices, that is, the glasses. At the time, the turn of phrase “content is king” had yet to be coined. However, he goes on saying, stories told in a virtual space must be told differently. They require “their own narrative grammar.”

Cyril Tuschi is a storyteller. Colourful, lively and spirited, he started off as a theatre director and then moved on to film. “Against my better knowledge”, he says, Tuschi became a film director although he knew “there was no money to be made, especially in documentaries.” His best-known film is probably “The Case of Chodorkowski“ on the eponymous fallen Russian oil magnate. The film premiered at the Berlinale film festival in 2011 after mysteriously disappearing twice before it could be completed. Those were turbulent times.

In order to fully understand the attraction of virtual reality, says Cyril Tuschi, one has to experience it. “I think you have to dive in, try it out, otherwise the fascination is lost on you.” When he first experienced VR, he “was shaking and happy like a child. It is amazing how the virtual world draws itself over the real one like a blanket. A strong experience.”

Tuschi’s had this epiphany during a stay at the Goethe-Institute in Hong Kong. “They are so much further than we are,” he remembers. He then travelled through China, where he “saw many things. Everything I always imagined seemed technologically possible at the time.” For three years now, Tuschi and his partner have been working on their ideas – first in Babelsberg and as of recently in Adlershof. “This is where the synergies are happening. A veritable VR hub,” says Tuschi.

His company You-VR has Tuschi and his team focus on the development of so-called multiplayer VR systems, which can be used for business or entertainment. Under the label Vonderland, the company develops its own multisensory, multiplayer VR machines as well as matching content. In Vonderland’s Dream Deck, sensors track the user’s eye and hand movements, a smell generator creates odours, air and temperature are regulated in line with the story, and hydraulic floors and moving walls may sway, creak and shake if the story requires it. “Vonderland will meld the best movie and gaming content with VR and augmented reality worlds across media platforms and translate animation into interactive adventures for the whole family,” says Tuschi. His aim is a collective experience with friends, like “a hero’s journey in the style of Lord of the Rings, where friends solve tasks together. That has a lot in common with travelling or going on an expedition.”

Sometimes Tuschi’s own development from a storyteller to director to entrepreneur feels like a hero’s journey. “Investors need clear statements on their return of investment and proof of concept. It can be tough. It’s also really exciting but sometimes not as dynamic as we’d wished for.”

By Rico Bigelmann for Adlershof Journal

 

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Illustration: Ralph Stegmaier © Adlershof Journal, Adlershof Journal Cover
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