In his TED talk Chris Milk, founder and CEO of VR tech company Within, tells his personal journey from a childhood love of music through to creating virtual reality experiences.
Milk starts by explaining how music goes straight to the emotional vein. Music makes everything makes have greater emotional resonance. This lead Milk to believe if he could layer something more on top of the music he could get more emotion. To do this Milk began to create music videos. But, the form of music videos never allowed him to achieve this. In fact he found that this narrative structure actually detracted from the music.
It wasn’t until discovering virtual reality (VR) that he found a medium that could achieve what he wanted to do. The reason is because virtual reality isn’t just the expression of a particular emotion, it’s a way for the user to experience that emotion for themselves.
To illustrate his point Chris Milk goes back to the start of storytelling. We hear a story and then we turn that an internal representation of what we have heard. Books, TV, radio and film all build on this idea of creating an internal representation based on an external narrative. In these other mediums consciousness interprets the medium but in VR your consciousness is the medium.
Chris Milk points out that VR is in the earliest stages of its development as an art form. As he say in film school you need to learn every rule of filmmaking before you start to break any, but with VR we haven’t learnt any of the rules yet.
We have however started to learn some tricks when creating these VR experiences. Close-ups have a special resonance in virtual reality. By being closer to the subject, they are in your personal space, and thus you form an emotional connection with them.
Sound can be used to create a certain feelings with the person experiencing the VR. It an also be used as a tool to direct your attention. By adding sound in a certain place you direct the viewer’s attention to look there.
In the future Chris Milk predicts we will be able to use all of our senses to experience VR and complete agency of how we interact with that virtual reality. He imagines a future where we can visit blackholes, create our own galaxies or communicate using only thoughts.
At the end of the TED Talk, Chris Milk invites the audience to experience VR for themselves. Each audience member had been given a Google Cardboard VR headset. This allowed them to experience the same VR experience together.
You can download the app and TED VR montage yourself at: