The future of ghosts

Speaking of ghosts, I am struck by how well immersive virtual reality lends itself to ghost stories. And I don’t mean the sort of thumb twiddling VR that’s currently being pushed by certain large companies, where you sit all day in front of a computer.

I mean the kind of VR that we are prototyping at NYU, where you get up on your feet and wander around the real world, a world with actual doors and desks and physical things — except that the real world has been utterly transformed, made to look like another place entirely, a place where magic is possible.

An analogy we’ve been using in our discussions here is with Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More. That’s an immersive non-linear narrative experience in which you wander — with your physical body, and on your own two feet – through a mysterious hotel where fragments of connected stories are taking place all around you.

Since Sleep No More uses traditional technologies, those stories can only be acted out by physical present performers and dancers. But what if that restriction were lifted?

The result would be a powerful medium for telling fantastical stories — ghost stories in particular. Creatures could materialize right in front of you, characters could walk through walls or float though the air, mirrors could cast altered reflections — or reflections from another room entirely.

We all have our own ghost stories to tell. And we may just be about to get a better way to tell them.