Audiences will be able to experience first-hand the results of an immersive VR project when it showcases at the Watershed, Bristol next week (Tuesday 25 June).

The immersive documentaries, which build on a project involving Bath Professor Danaë Stanton Fraser, offer audiences the chance to experience a variety of nonfiction prototypes first-hand using different VR headsets.

The wider project, which is funded by the EPSRC, investigates the use of VR for journalism and documentary, and the impact the platform has on storytelling and audience experience. It is a collaboration between the University of Bristol, University of Bath and UWE Bristol (the University of West of England), in partnership with the Watershed, BBC, the Guardian, Aardman Animations, VRCity, Jongsma + O’Neill, Archer’s Mark, VRTOV and MIT’s Open Documentary Lab.

As part of this, three VR works were chosen from among over 150 applications based on their originality and innovation. These will be displayed at the Watershed next week and include:

  • The Waiting Room, from Bafta Award winner Victoria Mapplebeck tells the story of her own breast cancer from diagnosis through treatment to recovery. Her first exploration of VR; this project explores the cultural myths and language of chronic illness, asking us to confront what we can and what we can’t control when our bodies fail us.
  • Love and Seawater is the first VR work created by filmmaker Lisa Harewood and creative technologist Ewan Cass-Kavanagh. This work addresses the legacy of the separations between parents and children that have been a feature of Caribbean economic migration, and takes a participatory approach to production, involving those affected by this theme in developing a VR treatment of this previously invisible aspect of global migrant culture.
  • Transplant is a new work by producers Oscar Raby and Katy Morrison of the Melbourne based VRTOV studio, whose field-defining VR projects have been shown and celebrated from Sundance to Sheffield DocFest. Set in Chile under the dictatorship of General Pinochet, Transplant centres on the ideas of biologist and philosopher Francisco Varela, as he undergoes a liver transplant, it asks; how do we repair a damaged organism? How do we reorganise a damaged society? Transplant asks us to consider, through interactive VR, the relationship between body and mind.

The showcase will also include panel discussions giving the audience the opportunity to interact with the artists and producers. They also will be joined by special guest Nonny de la Peña, CEO & Founder of award-winning innovation company Emblematic Group.

Professor Stanton-Fraser from the University's Department of Psychology who is co-investigator on the project explained: "The Virtual Realities project is enabling an exciting body of work on immersion. It is great to be showcasing the first prototypes emerging from the project. We also look forward to sharing some of our results from both lab-based and "in the wild" studies of virtual reality in this space."