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VR play fails to meet expectations

Aug 15,2017
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“Competition” promoted itself as “Korea’s first VR performance,” but the only innovative technology it used was a 360 wraparound screen projecting 2-D images. [YONHAP]
The poster said it was a “virtual reality performance” that had never been attempted in Korea. But “Competition,” a play staged last Friday through Sunday at the CKL Stage in central Seoul, interestingly did not outfit the audience with VR headsets, which usually are necessary to enjoy the immersive experience.

Instead of headsets, the audience was invited inside a 360-degree wraparound screen, which was used as the stage for the three actors who appear in the play. The panoramic projection system impressed the audience, who came in thinking they would experience the latest technology. However, the images projected onto the screen were mere 2-D images that did not interact with the audience or pop out like holograms. Simply put, it was nothing more than a performance using a wraparound screen as its most significant prop - something that is definitely not worth the 40,000 won ticket.

Indeed, there are some companies that have jumped into developing technology that allows people to experience virtual reality without headsets so that people can enjoy the experience together. It too uses a similar 360-degree projection system, like “Competition” did, but has more to it than just projected 2-D images.

Why call it “Korea’s first VR performance”?

Director Choi Jong-chan said, “Being inside the wraparound screen and being a part of the performance, I believe, is the virtual reality, whether it is with a headset or without,” adding that the term VR is something more comprehensive than how it is commonly used today.

“We also agonized over whether to use the term for the performance or not, but decided to use it in the end because we believe this is a unique performance that still maintains the important features of a play, such as the emotions of the actors, while converging it with technology.”

BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [sharon@joongang.co.kr]