Inside the five best immersive experiences at the Tribeca Film Festival

After last year’s impressive slate of virtual reality experiences, the Tribeca Film Festival decided to up the ante and feature 29 new experiences at its Virtual Arcade exhibit. This year’s experiences will have you sniffing virtual trees, fighting immortal babies, and ultimately unable to separate reality from fiction.

The lineup is jam packed with VR games and films that are sure to leave you wanting a more virtual reality. Digital Trends has narrowed down the field of VR experiences to the five best.

Alteration

Alteration is an 18-minute short film about a young man named Alejandro who tries making some extra money by participating in experimental studies on dreams. What he comes to realize in viscerally visual detail is those tests are really digitizing his subconscious, with deleterious effects.

Created by Jérôme Blanquet and demoed on the Oculus Rift, you get to move your head to visibly clear the darkness away from the screen in certain scenes, and question what is real in others. All of that helps the 18 minutes fly by, and will have you clamoring to go deeper into Alejandro’s memories.

Bebylon Battle Royale

Having babies fight on hoverboards in virtual reality is more fun than most adults may care to admit. The latest VR experience from start-up Kite+Lightning is Bebylon Battle Royale, an addictive head to head VR fighting game for the Oculus Rift where you power up with taunts and do special moves with selfie sticks, all while flying around as an immortal baby.

The game has simple controls similar to Super Smash Brothers, and almost everything you see is a place you can battle on. You’ll be swiveling in your chair to keep your eyes on all of the action. It will be available for the Oculus Rift, Playstation VR, and HTC Vive later this year.

Unrest VR

Virtual reality is often used to entertain, but its potential to inspire true empathy in people was on display in the the Unrest: VR experience. Based on the documentary film of the same name, Unrest attempts to put you in the life of someone suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. The only way you can interact with your environment is by staring at items around you that then trigger audio recordings that explain their context.

Inspired by the real life events of co-creator Jennifer Brea,  Unrest: VR is the closest you’ll ever come to filling a set of VR goggles with tears.

Talking With Ghosts

tribeca film festival virtual reality htc vive oculus talking with ghosts

Talking With Ghosts is a compilation of four illustrative stories made with Oculus Story Studio’s VR painting app Quill, which unfold like immersive comic books. With a simple click of the Oculus Touch controller, you progress through each story, mimicking the feeling of flipping comic book pages.

The best story by far was Reservoir, by Ric Carrasquillo, wherein two people discuss their relationship over a game of miniature golf that becomes a warped emblem of their dysfunction. The story was so engaging, I often forgot how fantastical it is to see cartoon characters hanging above and around you. Talking With Ghosts will be in the Oculus store later this year.

Treehugger: Wawoma

Marshmallow Laser Feast’s Treehugger: Wawona places you in a forest while rain pours down as you examine around, with the smell of redwood tree filling your nose. For the experience, you don an HTC Vive equipped with a device made by SenseAble Technologies which can spray different scents at you in milliseconds, based on actions happening during the experience.

For the experience, a giant piece of foam was rigged with sensors. If you lean your head into the large makeshift foam tree you not only see inside the tree in VR, but you’re met with rich scents of plant smells, and when you stick your head out, you are met with the misty scent of rain. This was by far the most immersive VR experience at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

These are just a few of the virtual reality experiences that blew us away at Tribeca Film Festival. At this rate, next year’s Tribeca Film Festival is sure to be the festival’s biggest VR showing to date.