The developers of [NUREN] The New Renaissance have released a demo of their feature-length virtual reality music experience, showing a segment that reminds me of just why I got into this VR business in the first place: dancing robot girls and space ships.
Billed as the first of its kind—a feature-length VR musical—NUREN tells the story of a post-war world devoid of “work, emotion, and conflict,” that is at first depressingly grey and lifeless—sort of like the town from Footloose (1984). But the gynoids ‘RIX’ and ‘QGK’—the moral equivalent of Kevin Bacon’s character in the film—emerge from their programming to become more human than even their sedate masters. And they’ve come to dance.
Artists Jake “Virt” Kaufman and Jessie Seely give a decidedly TRON-like feel to what looks like a cyberpunk version of Jack Fresco’s planned, circular city of the Venus Project. Neon cubes and other impossible lighting effects pulse in and out of existence to the beat of the segment’s track, entitled Broken/Perfect.
I’m taken into a bright showroom floor and told by a soothing paternal voice about the many use cases of our would-be android slaves, only to be ejected over a dilapidated mass of closely huddled skyscrapers. The music rises to a fever pitch, and in a flash of light the dull city below is illuminated to reveal a complex circuitry. It looks amazing.
Further into the experience, I see hovering transport crafts, and other light show/dancing intervals, most of them forward-facing to give me the best view of my new robot chums.
Switching between the brief interludes that punctuate the segment isn’t nearly as jarring as you’d think it would be, with scenes appearing just long enough for you to reacquaint yourself with any given area of the story line. It’s clear there was a lot of thought put into length and position of the visual effects, but the fact remains that this is an ‘on rails’ experience that necessitates a rapid enough flow to remain interesting. Sometimes however, I felt myself being ripped away from the experience of flying over the city, or going up the neon elevator with my dancing gynoid pal ‘step ball changing’ ad infinitum.
This brings me to the only gripe I’ve found with the NUREN demo, and that’s the dancing. It’s bad. Worse than mine, and that’s saying a lot. For now, the prototype demo is using canned animations. I have faith that $70,000, the Kickstarter campaign funding goal, can provide enough cash for guest artists to come in to create all manner of visual whizzbangs, but I’m most looking forward to custom choreography that Virt and Seely say they’ll have motion-captured for the full experience.
But these are the pithy little grumblings from a man who just wants to ride space ships and watch robot girls dance.