Sngmoo Lee’s immersive theater experience puts you face-to-face with a real actor in VR.
Earlier this year while attending the Sundance Film Festival, I had the chance to experience Scarecrow, an immersive theater experience that combines motion capture technology with temperature effects to deliver a one-of-a-kind interactive performance unlike anything available on Broadway at the moment.
Lasting around 20 minutes, this bizarre location-based art project had me interacting with a live actor represented as a friendly scarecrow in the virtual world. Here, I took part in a chaotic fairy-tale adventure that had us fighting off virtual crows, painting 3D art, and performing a handful of magic tricks. At certain points the actor would even make physical contact, using me as a human shield against waves of devastating fireballs brought to life via temperature haptics attached to my hands.
Unfortunately, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has prevented audiences from experiencing this game-changing hybrid experience. In an effort to bypass social distancing policies and get their experience into the hands of the public, creator Sngmoo Lee and his team have since developed a virtual rendition of Scarecrow available exclusively in VRChat.
Available now as part of the ongoing Raindance Film Festival, Scarecrow on VRChat allows users to experience a reimagined version of the original interactive performance. While not as engaging as the physical rendition, this remote alternative does feature its benefits, such as increased player size. Unlike the original, Scarecrow on VRChat allows two users to experience the action at one time.
“With the line between VR and motion capture technology continuing to blur, Scarecrow is just the start of a whole new wave of immersive theater experiences connecting live actors with virtual audiences. Still, it’s going to be some time before we begin to see mainstream immersive entertainment providers employing the same level of physicality as is featured in Scarecrow; the project is simply ahead of its time.”