VOTD: “Strange Beasts”

The promise of virtual reality is still something we’re struggling with. The Oculus Rift, the Playstation VR and the HTC Vive are still at stratospheric pricing levels, costing in the neighborhood of $600 for a complete system, and that’s without the upgrades to your computer that you’ll need to drive them.

The pricey nature of the new medium isn’t the only thing we’re struggling with. As our society becomes more and more intertwined with cybernetic enhancement, where is that boundary between the virtual and the real? Today’s Video of the Day explores this theme. The film is by  Magali Barbé.

As you watch, please pause the Krypton Radio stream using the handy controller in the site header. You’ll want to hear every line of dialog.

Barbé’s film begins with a handsome young man, introducing himself as Victor Weber. Weber tells us about “Strange Beasts”, an augmented reality game that sits somewhere between Pokémon Go and the classic Tamagotchi. Users create, customize, and grow their own miniature creature, and can interact with it on a daily basis as they would a real pet. We are introduced to Walter’s “daughter” Anna, who plays with her own pet Blooby.

Things go eerily sideways, though, when Weber tells us that his augmented reality is achieved through a harmless enhancement called “nano retina technology”. What happens next is an exercise in loneliness and self-absorption. What happens to us when we start to allow the virtual to overtake the real?

Barbé is a London-based animator and previsualization artist — the digital rendering of scenes and photography ahead of filming the real thing. That relationship, between the digital and the ‘real thing’, is precisely in question in Strange Beasts. She wrote and directed, and produced the self-funded film, but she also relied on an extensive team of designers, animators, and other experts.

What do you think? Does Weber’s fate await us all?

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