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  • Writer's pictureAVIROOP ROY

Storytelling In VR

In order to understand what the future of storytelling holds , we first have to take

a look at its past. So let’s travel back to a time before movies, before theatres,

and before books, when stories were something shared, not on the big screens or stages,

but around the campfire.

We don’t know everything about how this early form for storytelling worked for certain,

but we can say something about its purpose and goals. They told each other stories about

encountering wild and dangerous animals to warn each other, or about places with lots

of fruit and food to give each other help. But they also used storytelling as a way of

connecting with the other worldly and godly forces.

During antiquity, storytelling, and theatre especially, became even more important. The

Dionysus-festival, where theatre was the main event, became one of the backbones of Greek

society, strengthening the bonds between the city states and creating a Greek identity.

Their culture was what separated them from the barbarians, and they believed tragedies

could make them better people through catharsis, feelings of sadness and empathy so strong their souls were cleansed.

During the middle ages, storytelling became monopolized by the church, but still played an important role in religious education and worship. But it was during the renaissance that storytelling really came into its own. We get the first professional storytellers in the form of actors and playwrights, who used the art to spread awareness and criticize their society. Also, the invention of the printing press makes literature far more available to the public. During the classical era that followed, storytelling was organised and codified, as science and logic were very popular at the time, creating a set of rules theatre and literature should follow, drawing from the likes of Aristotle and the three unities.

During romanticism, logic was overtaken by emotions, and art and stories should elicit

strong ones. They celebrated their nations and the people living in them, not caring

for accuracy, but for emotional and artistic value. During the 1800-s, stories became more realistic. Authors and playwrights wanted to show things as they truly were, and realism was born. They used their stories to criticize the society they lived in, and they were very successful. This period is sometimes called a poetocracy. In the 1900-s, storytelling was revolutionized in more ways than one, splitting into two directions. On one hand, Playwrights and authors started experimenting more, wanting to create a new form of connection between the audience and the actors, making the people watching a part of the stories that were told, through performance art and new thoughts about scenography and audience placement. On the other side, tv and movies created a new separation between them, the fourth wall stronger than ever, but it also made stories far more accessible and realism was more important than ever. Most of us consume stories through tv, videos or streaming daily: not in hundreds, maybe thousands of years has storytelling been such an important part of our daily lives. Now, in the 21 century, Video games have opened up for a whole new medium, in many ways combining the two paths of the previous period. The interactivity and connection from theatre with the availability and mass-production of film and tv. For the first time in history, we can have a real impact on the stories, almost becoming a part of them. And the ease of which games, animations and videos can be created, as well as how easy it is to share them with others on sites like YouTube, storytelling has become democratized in a way never before seen.

I also want to mention tabletop roleplaying games that take the interactive element and

expands it into infinite possibilities. They have been around for some time, but through

shows like critical roles they have exploded in popularity in the last few years. It’s

clear to me that people want to get closer to the stories they are told.

And that brings us to the title of this video: What is the future of storytelling? What are

the mediums of stories yet untold?

Well, our look at history paints a pretty clear picture of what we want, that when combined with new technology can give us a good guess. The leading schools of thoughts on storytelling, especially in the last few decades, are clear: Realism, interactivity, democratization. We want stories told to us, for us, with us as the main characters. And technology is making that possible. Computer generated graphics are becoming more realistic than ever. Visual effects in movies have been indistinguishable from reality for years, and real-time rendering is becoming better by the second. Techniques like ray tracing and advanced simulations make our game world more realistic than ever, and new technologies are being developed faster than ever. We already have VR-headsets that can transport our sight and hearing into these worlds. And with treadmills and suits we can run around in them and feel the impact of bullets. But the future's in brain-computer interfaces. Gabe Newell, the CEO at Valve, has talked about their research into reading and manipulating our brain signals to give us full immersion, creating a virtual world more realistic than reality. He says that they're afraid to start making a product, because the field is advancing so quickly that their headset would be outdated before it was even finished. But how will the stores be created? Full immersion VR also requires limitless interactivity and possibilities, how will we achieve that? Well, the answer is Artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is already a great storyteller. Gpt-3 powered website AI dungeons can craft a believable narrative, where you choose everything that happens. The Ai gives you a description of a scene, you answer what you want to do, and it seamlessly works that into its next description. It’s far from perfect, but it shows us what’s possible. Ai can also produce lifelike images of people and objects, how long is it before it can create 3d models and populate a game world? Probably not too long. Then, it only has to imbue those people with life. Voice-synthesis technology is advancing rapidly, and in narrow tasks is already very human-like. Google’s duplex technology could fool most of us, and projects like replica promises to imbue those voices with emotion and life. Procedural animation is almost a solved issue, with characters able to lean on large libraries of motion capture data, seamlessly stringing together different animations into a cohesive action.

And by combining these, you get a character that listens to you talk, figures out a suitable answer that it acts out with movement and emotions. Isn’t that just a human being? Let’s take a look at an example of what is possible today, using gpt-3 and replica.. Keep in mind: This following video was created by one person in his spare time, imagine what

could be done by a whole studio? As you can imagine, the future seems bright for storytelling. A custom-made story just for you, with you as the main character. But what about the storytellers? Will there be room for scriptwriters, authors and creative professionals in this new world? My guess is yes. Because even though an AI could create a wonderful story, there is still something valuable about the stories that you and I tell. Not because we're human, not because we're better than the AI, but because we are. There are hundreds of different scriptwriters and tv-shows already made by humans, why can’t there be hundred more made by ai? That is the beauty of creativity: You can’t be best at it, because everyone enjoys different things.

So it is clear: In not very long, at least in a historical sense, we will be able to

experience full immersion, fully interactive stories made for us. We are standing before

a revolution in storytelling, but let’s take it a step further. Let’s stop talking

about technology we have, and take a moment to speculate a bit. Imagine this: A virtual world that runs faster than our real one. A Narnia-effect, if you will, where a day in the simulation is but an hour in real life, extending our life-spans tenfold. Imagine what stories could be told. A day in real life could be a week or a month in the simulation, allowing you to live as someone else. Maybe you want to go to Hogwarts and stay there, learning to know the other pupils, sleeping in the dorm rooms, going to lessons and battling bad guys. Maybe you want to go on a vacation, relaxing on a beautiful beach for days on end, while only being gone for a few hours. Or maybe you want to write a book, and spend all your time in a sped-up world, allowing you to finish it in a fraction of the time. Or develop a new medicine in a perfectly simulated replica of reality. Imagine living 5 different lives in five different timelines, being free to explore yourself and experience adventures like never before.

It might seem impossible, and maybe it is, but your body already has the capacity, in

a way. Have you ever felt like hours passed in a dream, while knowing that in reality

a dream only lasts a few minutes. Or have you experienced how, when your body gets into

fight or flight mode, the world seems to pass in slow motion? I’m no scientist, but if

we were able to harness that power, humanity could reach new heights. Is it dystopian? Maybe. A world where everyone is hooked into the machine, only waking to eat or drink, where the real world is slowly forgotten, leaving only a distant memory. But maybe that is the price for a utopia. Where luxury and experience is boundless, pain does not exist, where there is no need for fossil fuels that destroy the environment, where there is no need for exploitation of the poor because everything is just code. I don’t know if this will ever happen. I know it has been a dream for humans for millennia, the afterlife, the dream world, narnia, the oasis. But for the first time in history, that dream is starting to become a bit more tangible. I don’t know whether it is possible, I don't know when it will become reality, but i know one thing. The future is full of possibilities, and I, for one, am very excited to see what happens.

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