As the breezy Swiss spring hit Geneva, World VR Forum joined WSIS Forum 2018 (World Summit on Information Society) – the world’s largest, week-long annual gathering of the ‘ICTs for Development’ community with the latest revolutionary VR experiences, demonstrations and workshops for the third time at ITU (International Telecommunication Union) from 19-23 March, 2018.
The event was co-organized by ITU, UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD. Virtual Reality and other digital technologies were presented at the Summit to demonstrate their application to global initiatives for a more effective Information Society and to stimulate interactions between developing and developed countries. The Summit included a hackathon: Hack Against Hunger, TED Talks, panels, workshops and an exhibition space where the ICTs showcased their stands with their latest initiatives.
During all five days of the Summit, VR projects were showcased at the WSIS exhibition space – a multi-stakeholder event which gathers more than 20 exhibitors from civil society, academia, international organizations, private sector, and government. Fifteen different countries were represented at the exhibition.
The WVRF team showcased three VR films: 700 Sharks by Ivan Maucuit, CEO of Neotopy Studio – a 2×6′ cinematic VR documentary series about the life of great white sharks in Fakarava, Polynesia, in the Pacific Ocean; Las Meninas de Diego Velasquez by Carlos Franklin from Les Poissons Volants – where Velasquez paintings come to life; and Alteration by Jerome Blanquet from OKIO and distributed by MK2 – a Sci-Fi thriller about a VR social experiment of the future gone wrong. Also in the exhibition space were EyeWander with whom WVRF collaborated with, showcasing video clips from WVRF’s Annual Summit 2017 and VR interviews with notable VR producers on their most innovative projects, and Ez Group with Gulli-VR was present, immersing the viewer in a VR voyage through the human body.
High officials from international organizations were welcome to try many exciting VR experiences in the exhibition space throughout the week. VR also left its memorable mark at WSIS with live VR demonstrations which took place on Tuesday and Wednesday.
WVRF’s Live VR Demonstrations
On Tuesday, Salar Shahna, WVRF’s CEO opened a special session called Experience a Live Demonstration on Virtual Reality for Development. Shahna introduced the audience to WVRF, WVRF’s VR Production Lab, WVRF’s Annual Summit and collaborations with Rwanda and China. Then Shahna showed some footage of VR usage in The Matrix and other Sci-Fi films from the 1990s, a clip from Lumiere brothers 1895 black and white film with the train which was the VR of that time as many people ran from the screen when they saw it, Facebook Spaces, a technology evolution diagram and a short video of middle school students in Rwanda exploring VR.
According to Shahna, "Virtual Reality has been very strongly present in our fantasmagory, especially in movies and now it has become a reality since 2016. We're going to show how VR can be applied to more than just science fiction and video games but also how it can impact social change and be a real game changer for education."
After Shahna’s introduction, Clayton Doherty, WVRF’s President demonstrated Virtual Reality to a group of 7th, 8th and 9th grade students from Le Régent Crans-Montana College on TeachVR which allows to travel the world virtually with the help of the Google Maps VR application. Each student was given a cardboard VR headset which immersed them into different locations around the world such as Acropolis, Athens; Great Barrier Reef, Australia; Louvre, Paris; Tate Modern, UK and MoMA in New York City.
On Wednesday afternoon Shahna repeated his enlightening Tuesday keynote at the second Live Demonstration on Virtual Reality to another excited batch of WSIS participants before introducing the very creative Parisian VR film producer, Ivan Maucuit.
Maucuit presented his VR masterpiece, the highly immersive mini-series, 700 Sharks, which included the French marine biologist, Laurent Ballesta as the narrator, the Blancpain-sponsored Gombessa expedition team and of course the actors who have the biggest Hollywood smiles in the history of cinema – the great white Polynesian sharks, with the adult sharks measuring up to 6 metres in length and weighing up to 1,100 kg. Astounding the audience with his lecture and striking visuals, Maucuit gave an inside look at the filming process of the two episodes of the series, The Fakarava Mystery and Into the Shark Pack, and the challenges that came with filming, such as becoming a member of the shark team, interaction between the film crew and the actors and the naming of all the sharks to keep track of their nightly shenanigans. Both parts were shot at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean at night as this was the sharks’ breakfast and lunch time and therefore the best time to film their hunting tactics, meal sharing and pack dynamics.
"My goal was not only to produce a documentary on a 'virgin' territory not yet trampled on by other trailblazers in the industry or to tell a great story, but also to teleport the viewers out of their comfort zone and sharks looked like the most colourful subjects to provide this surreal experience, making you feel as a member of their pack. Not everyone has the privilege to encounter such amazing toothy pals in real life or even to visit their breathtaking natural habitat, but anyone can safely immerse into their tribe and explore their vibrant culture in the VR headsets," said Maucuit.
The demonstration increased the public’s curiosity in WVRF and the VR medium, with a number of people coming to try the 700 Sharks experience at our stand at the WSIS exhibition space. WSIS 2018 was a positive experience for us as we have met a number of potential partners from other organizations specializing in education and technology at our VR screenings and live VR demonstrations, who expressed their interest in collaborating with us in the future.