Virtual Arcade: Tribeca Film Festival offers immersive VR experience

LOWER MANHATTAN, New York City (WABC) -- Its name may be the Tribeca Film Festival, but the event has always been about honoring the past -- with one eye on the present and the other on the future.

It's a mantra I saw on display at Varick Street in Lower Manhattan, when I got a look at the latest in virtual reality, or VR.

From the weird to the wondrous, you'll find it there in the virtual arcade. And Tribeca Film Festival's Loren Hammond is the guy in charge of programming the immersive displays.

"The pieces have definitely continued to get more elaborate," he said. "There's a true evolution in the technology, but also in the storytelling. So we're seeing longer pieces, which is very exciting."

My first stop was "Bonfire," where technicians made sure my VR goggles were comfortable and everything was in focus.

Without goggles, you see only a fake bonfire. But using controllers in each hand, I can put logs on that fire while immersed in a new and different world, free to interact with the beasts within.

My guide was Eric Darnell, who wrote and directed the "Madagascar" movies but now works full time in virtual reality.

"Unlike cinema, where you sit in a dark room and watch something unfold, and you're not a part of it, what we're really trying to do is put the viewer inside the story all around you," he said.

Another story is called "Drop in the Ocean," produced by Conservation International, which looks at pollution.

Julie King is director of technology at The Buckley School, where she uses virtual reality to combat bullying.

"The meaning of this experience to really feel the impact of human pollution on the ocean," she said. "The experience is based on your choices and thinking about who might you be in the world and how might your choices have an impact today."

The idea behind "Drop in The Ocean," is to get us to think before we throw away.

As we were leaving the exhibit, King explained its importance.

"If we could create that kind of excitement and immersive learning experience for every kid, every day, that would be magic," she said.

Magic indeed! The VR arcade is open though the weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival, but you must get tickets online.

To find out how, visit

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