TV Shows Experiment With Virtual Reality

‘Star Trek’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ fans can become immersed in their favorite program

18 August 2017

Imagine being a character inside your favorite TV show, immersing yourself in a virtual world in which the decisions you make affect the outcome of the plot.

Producers of three TV shows are using virtual reality technology—games, platforms, and headsets—to transport viewers into the scene they’re watching.


    Trekkies can now walk in the shoes of Spock or Captain Kirk and pilot the USS Aegis. Video game publisher Ubisoft’s immersive VR game Star Trek: Bridge Crew is the “closest you can get to being on the bridge of a Federation starship,” according to Kotaku.

    Ubisoft announced the release of ‘Star Trek’: Bridge Crew at last year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. The game is available in stores, and online for users of Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4.

    One to four players wearing a VR headset take a position controlling the ship. Available positions are captain, helm (driving), tactical (scanning and weapons), and engineering (regulating the ship’s power distribution and preparing engines for the journey). A bot runs any vacant positions.

    Relying heavily on the headset’s communication system, players need to work together to accomplish the mission’s objectives, which can change quickly, according to Kotaku.


    Sony Pictures and Vince Gilligan, creator of the popular TV show “Breaking Bad,” announced in June they are developing a VR experience for PlayStation 4, according to Polygon.

    “Breaking Bad” is a crime drama about a high school chemistry teacher who turns to making and selling methamphetamine after becoming terminally ill with cancer.

    It won’t be a game per se but a platform in which “viewers have complete free agency on where they go, where they look, and what they see”, says Shawn Layden, CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment.

    The experience will be built using computer graphics until live-action 360-degree video is fully developed, Sony says. Once available, VR experiences will be recorded in a way in which every viewpoint is filmed simultaneously, using an omnidirectional camera, or a collection of cameras, Polygon reports. These features are expected to make the experience more lifelike and allow gamers to view all angles in each scene.

    Layden predicts VR will be the new medium for viewing television and movies. In the Polygon interview, he says VR “is not an upgrade of a current medium—it’s a brand-new platform,” and movie directors “are going to have to learn new disciplines in order to tell their story.”


    At this year’s SXSW conference, VR company Unlimited showed its trailer for “Trinity,” the first interactive science fiction TV series made for the platform. Gamers are observers in “Trinity,” in a future when humans are extinct following the rise of artificial intelligence. The last surviving androids fight a war against a common enemy: their God.

    The five-show series was filmed with volumetric VR, which uses moving 3D images of real people. Similar concepts of a VR TV show have been created, but not to this extent.

    Each of the episodes will be 15 minutes long and viewable on any VR headset, Unlimited says.

    The company’s CEO, John Hamilton, is writing and producing the series. At a SXSW panel discussion, he talked about the challenges of working with VR, filming in 360-degree video, and live-action technologies.

    “To produce ‘Trinity,’ Unlimited developed a proprietary camera in order to capture and create a truly interactive entertainment experience,” Hamilton told Forbes. “We were able to allow viewers to move around within an episode in a way that hasn’t been seen before in virtual reality.”

    The “Trinity” pilot episode is scheduled to be released in the fall, according to a press release.

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