Virtual experiences have undoubtedly come a long way in the last few years, but when W+K approached Mill+ with the opportunity to recreate a journey through Paradise as a fully sensory experience, the team saw an opportunity for VR to take a giant leap forward.
Mill+ Creative Director Adam Grint explains, ‘This experience represents everything that is so exciting about experimenting with merging genres - taking interactive gameplay, linear narrative and live theatre and melding them together to create a new hybrid experience.’
Grint and Mill Design Director Adam Parry were the perfect pair to execute this multifaceted and somewhat daunting project. Grint leading on the creative technology and Parry spearheading the theatre and live event elements. Together with the W+K creative team, they developed a mythical and enchanting script.
To authentically create the feeling of being fully immersed in nature, the experience required the team to drill down into what drives the human perception of the environment around us and how to create a more believable connection to it.
This had to be a world you could not only see and hear but one you could touch, feel and smell. All the while, finding a balance between motivating attendees to a clear end goal and ensuring that they felt like they authored the journey themselves through unique interactions.
Parry explains, ‘There were 4 key concepts at the heart of this narrative; What’s driving you forward? How do you find your way? How can you make a confined physical space appear much bigger using a virtual landscape? How can use engage physically with the virtual environment?’
To achieve the optimum levels of intrigue, no one invited was told there was a VR experience. The team created a hidden portal into the VR area through a Corona vending machine.
A key challenge for the team to overcome was how to apply the VR equipment without detracting from the overall experience. By bringing live-theatre into the mix the team were able to blur the lines between the physical and the virtual.
The narrative threads reflected this seamless transition. The overall feeling of the urban jungle giving way to Paradise started as soon as attendees entered the door of the venue. Actors and performers were on hand throughout the event to carry attendees all the way through to the Paradise beach bar at the end.
Once in the headset and without ‘signage’, or some form of physical guide, the team had to figure out how to keep the attendees on course. The answer was a docent, born from the environment itself, a Hummingbird that uses AI to lead users through the experience, directing their attention to elements of interaction, coaching them to follow should they stop for too long in a section.
The idea was to have attendees chase the sunset through different portals. The ultimate goal was to reach the beach in time to watch the sun set.
When the Corona cooler box opened on the beach in VR, the users’ vision was then flooded in orange light. The team built a fog / light installation in the exit room, so the last thing seen in VR, matches the first thing seen in the physical world as attendees removed their headset.
The team took so many learnings from this mammoth project, much of the process required them to experiment and fail before they found the right way. In the end, the results superseded all expectations, raising the bar for future VR experiences and creating an online sensation.