The Kennedy Center, internationally renowned as a venue for performance and arts, is building a name for itself in a new arena: virtual reality. For the opening of their new $175 million dollar expansion at the REACH facility’s opening festival, the Kennedy Center was ready to implement new, unique ways to activate the new space, and virtual reality fit the bill.
But implementing new technology comes with challenges.“Often, people are reluctant to try out new technology in public for fear of looking silly or being uncomfortable. At REACH, we were able to create a safe space for individuals to try something new – and open the technology to a much larger demographic than the younger tech-savvy crowd that usually tends to gravitate towards it,” says Joseph Cathey, whose company Capitol Interactive orchestrated the guest experience at the REACH Festival’s virtual reality lounge.
Capitol Interactive also developed the VR application for playing back the 360 degree VR films that were shown, a task Cathey says, that was “made easier by having great content.” “The films that were curated were really the star of the show. We were lucky to feature content from some of the best VR filmmakers in the world.”
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Participants who experienced the 360 films at the VR lounge were able to choose between six films; including “Circle Of Life” from Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway, a musical look into the cosmos in Eliza McNitts “Fistful of Stars,” a VR adaptation of the Royal Swedish Ballet’s performance of “Half Life” from director Robert Connor, and Emmy-nominated documentary, “Traveling While Black” from direct Roger Ross Williams, in collaboration with Felix and Paul Studios, among others.
The films were a hit. In the first three days of the festival alone, over 2,000 people had a chance to experience the films. Cathey is optimistic about what’s next at the Kennedy Center’s REACH facility. “Storytelling with virtual reality is hands down the best way to introduce people to topics they’re unfamiliar with. The level of immersion it provides makes it a great tool not just for art, but also for education, and I can’t think of a better institution than the Kennedy Center to help bring that to the public.”
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