What is your favorite review of Roger Ebert

VR is going to be very, very good

Tech is playing a bigger role at SXSW every year, and despite the deeply irritating fact that a tech brother somewhere in Austin says the word "disrupt" about every 0.42 seconds this week, there is an arena that is taking a significant leap looked ahead: virtual reality technology. Cost remains the biggest barrier to any kind of mainstream adoption of the technology: putting a grand on a computer (without considering the cost of the required headset, controllers, sensors, etc.) is for most people still unreachable. But holy hell, the things that are being done with VR at this point make it an inevitable next step in pop culture and entertainment. At least I hope that's what I thought the first time. Here are some of the reasons why.

It seems like many film directors reject VR for the same reason that Roger Ebert dismissed video games as an art form: they think it's a gimmick that punishes art in the name of the medium's demands. (Or maybe they just have bad memories of Avatar and guess this is a billion times.) But there are techniques to use VR for storytelling in exciting new ways, which has a lot to do with the frontier of the Wild West explored in 360 degrees and an ever-changing perspective . And was on both fronts Dinner party the clear winner.

Based on the actual story of the Hill UFO abduction, the 15-minute short film uses replicas of hypnosis sessions involving a couple who believe they have been abducted. New ways are explored how narratives can be communicated through camera work with wonderful results. It starts with the viewer lying dozens of feet above home and slowly walking past, a move the film's executive producer Erik Donley is rightly proud of. As he explained after seeing it, a lot of the complaints about VR came back to the many people shaping the story to fit the technology, rather than the other way around. With its mesmerizing cinematography (thanks to DP Sam Gezari) that constantly brings new frames of reference to single-take film, it's a miracle. (Full disclosure: when I watched the credits, I found that a dear friend played a small part in it.)

This second chapter of a three-part series director by Darren Aronofsky is based on research that has just won a Nobel Prize. Director Eliza McNitt was a little sad when I saw the film. Stephen Hawking had died the day before ("I owe him my imagination," she told me) and his influence on the nature of gravitational waves is ubiquitous. Essentially, waves in spacetime that occur when black holes collide. Narrated by Jessica Chastain, the film gives viewers the experience of falling into a black hole and creates a very human metaphor for the way these waves occur.

McNitt was repeatedly told that the "holy shit" aspect of her project was too difficult, but she persisted and thank God she did. I hate to spoil the surprise, but it's worth listening to as most of the people who see the short film about Oculus won't get the pleasure. At some point two black holes collided and suddenly Chastain suggests that you speak out loud to create ripples of your own in space around you. Skeptically I said: “Uh, okay” - and was immediately rewarded by the film, which converted my utterance into gravitational waves and established a personal connection to the material. I kept saying "Holy shit" every few seconds for about a minute and watched my words miraculously translate into visual grammar around me. I don't know how McNitt did it, but it was amazing.

There's a reason this game is already popular with VR users. Smash party is the epitome of simplicity: grab a bat and start smashing things while collecting points. That's all this arcade game has to offer. I found myself swinging terribly hard and ended up breathing heavily, which serves as both an affirmation and a warning. One of the developers told me his favorite online rating from a gamer was a sentence, "We used to have an Ikea table." This was just a small updated version tailored for SXSW, which meant the moon would have a cowboy hat among other things wore.

This VR short is a collaboration between the Emblematic Group and PBS ' Frontline and nova and used photogrammetry to create a trip to Greenland that combined thousands of photos to create a stunning icy landscape. The main message of the film - that glaciers melt mostly below, not above, the water - is achieved through a clever maneuver: instead of forcing viewers to dive in, you fall right on top of the water, unless you are completely empty and curious to take over yours Scouting instincts and you drop to one knee to look below the surface. It is the audience's decision to find out the cause of the ice melt on earth that connects you psychologically with the material. It's a subtle hint to your brain that while climate change is almost too big to think about, it is probably the greatest existential threat to humanity.

If you haven't heard from Meow Wolf, chances are you will soon: the geeky arts collective is growing rapidly. What began as a group of disgruntled artists making lavish installments in Santa Fe is now a multimillion-dollar business with a strange bowling alley that turned into a mystical home art installation of all things (originally funded by George RR Martin of all places) and has moved to several cities and towns Projects expanded. All of this will be in the new documentary Meow Wolf: Origin Story told, a gripping, if chaotic and overly long film, which describes the story of the group from basement parties to government sponsorships and hundreds of employees. At its core, the collective strives to create immersive and unusual public art installations, often a combination of science fiction, steampunk, fantasy, and surrealism, infused with narrative and rich fantasy.

In the group's latest VR experience, The atrium , the participants transform into an anthropomorphic gerbil. You're small but float around on a dirigible airship as you explore a precocious girl's bedroom. Oh, and there's a cult story, dimensional rifts, and a lot more too, but a lot of the fun comes from how massive the VR platform is. They look like a space age MMA fight ring and are in the middle of an environment three times the size of your average VR maneuver range, which makes the experience even more immersive. It was a hell of a lot of fun and a nice reminder of why Meow Wolf actually deserves all of this praise.

The writer and director Martin Taylor came across something special when he got the idea for Awake put together , a new eight-part, partially interactive series that follows various characters as they explore the nature of dreams, life, and the occasional blurry lines in between. Martin has been a dreamer almost since he was born; "I've always been interested in sharing these experiences with other people," he tells me after watching the first part of the first episode. "I want to give people goose bumps."

The project puts participants in the middle of a strange story about a man who has lost his wife to some mysterious force and is now sitting broken and unable to put together the steps necessary to bring her back. We know it has something to do with dreams - Martin admits that excerpts from his personal dream diaries play a role in the universe he created - and the living room you walked into is full of clues, every object is imbued with meaning and hidden meaning. In a way, it reminded me of a version of Myst from the 21st century that just turned into more narrative than game. But the narrative rewards exploration: simple controls allow you to traverse the room, take a closer look at objects, pick up a ringing phone, and much more.

By the end of the series, Martin promises, you will not only understand all the small details discovered along the way, but also realize what your role as a participant in the story is. (With that in mind, there is a distinct hint of the bold break of the fourth wall that is currently being made by Sam Esmails Mr. Robot is running .) He worked with numerous others to write the script, including the Red Dead Redemption- Writer Christian Cantamessa, and gave him a depth and depth rarely found in games. But if it's not a game, it's not a pure TV series either. It lives in a space between the two. In other words, it does something new and exciting, propels the entire medium forward, and deserves a closer look.