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The future is in Park City: highlights from Sundance’s New Frontier

By Kristine Pregot

The future is here, and I caught a glimpse of it while wearing VR glasses at the New Frontier. This is Sundance’s hottest place on the mountain. The Frontier is a who’s who of VR tech, design and storytelling.

These VR products aren’t exactly ready for household consumption yet, but the New Frontier has become a spot for developers to show off their latest and greatest in this ever-growing arena.

On the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Frontier’s dark hallway, you’ll find Oculus Rifts and HTC Vive stations lining the studio walls along with masked viewers sitting on comfy couches reaching for nothing, sitting side by side, but in their own dimension of (virtual) reality.

A very impressive exhibit was Holo-Cinema, a new technology being developed by Walt Disney Co.’s Lucasfilm to expand the Star Wars universe to your very own home. Users, wearing augmented glasses, journey through the Jakku desert and walk around a 3D C3PO while he paces and complains around you, like a hologram. If you were to walk into the room without the glasses, you would see an unfocused projection against the wall and under your feet.

Music meets storytelling was a big trend in the lab as well, with the Kendrick Lamar-scored installation Double Conscience from artist Kahlil Joseph featuring scenes from the inner city of LA rhythmically projected onto two walls and set to Kendrick’s new album.

Another fun and interactive piece that blended music with new technology was 3 Dreams of Black, a film by Chris Milk, with music from the album “Rome” by Danger Mouse, Daniele Luppi, and featuring Norah Jones. Check it out here.

While Sundance is one of the top festivals for filmmakers, I’m impressed with the breadth of new storytelling tools and technology that were on display. I look forward to seeing how the programmers further integrate this type of experience in the years to come.

Kristine Pregot is a senior producer at New York City-based Nice Shoes.