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Beyond Cinema: The Swiss Digital Revolution takes hold at NEXT


- CANNES NEXT: A showcase of the most innovative Swiss virtual-reality projects, presented by the Festival Tous Écrans

Beyond Cinema: The Swiss Digital Revolution takes hold at NEXT
The panel at the conference Beyond Cinema: The Swiss Digital Revolution

After a swift lunch break, NEXT's conference room hosted a showcase of several ground-breaking VR projects on Friday, courtesy of the Festival Tous Écrans (aka the Geneva International Film Festival).

Emmanuel Cuénod, the festival's executive and artistic director, introduced his guests to the crowd, who were eager to hear the latest about VR in Switzerland.

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Key issues in virtual reality were discussed to kick things off. “Presence” was the main one – that is, being able to have a true memory of a place we have been to. This happens after experiencing Space Odyssey, a VR journey through several worlds where users can interact with each other and the environment by wearing special markers on their feet, hands and head. Its creator, Caecilia Charbonnier, of ARTANIM, illustrated the experience in detail with some videos.

Later on, Apelab's Emilie Joly proudly presented three of the firm's latest works, merging storytelling and game design. Sequenced was the first, a re-playable episodic adventure inspired by Japanese animated cartoons. "All of the characters and objects are aware of the player's position," explained Joly. "Our main challenge was making the story proceed in a linear way, while letting the user interact with the many possible triggers around him or her."

Break a Leg, the second one, had a slightly different concept, as the viewer is asked to perform some magic tricks in front of an audience within a time limit of ten minutes. Finally, Mnemonic follows yet another story: the user must help an astronaut to remember his daughter little by little, after he has lost his memory.

Last but not least, Birdly was finally revealed in detail, after having entertained droves of visitors over the first few days of NEXT 2016. CTO and creator Max Rheiner illustrated the creative process underpinning this one-of-a-kind flight simulator, as well as the simple inspiration behind it: man's timeless dream of flying. After wearing a headset, the user lays on a board while holding two side wings with their hands, thus turning into a real bird, whose flight and speed are controlled by their own movements.

Both Space Odyssey and Birdly are available for a free trial at the NEXT Pavilion until Saturday 14 May (and they are certainly worth trying – this writer did!).

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