Photo courtesy Fox Innovation Lab / 20th Century Fox

Executive produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Robert Stromberg, a sneak-peek of The Martian VR Experience has landed on Samsung’s Gear VR headset. The full experience is set to debut in 2016 on desktop-class VR headsets, clocking in at 15-20 minutes.

Created in partnership with 20th Century Fox, Fox Innovation Lab, RSA Films, and The VR Company, The Martian VR Experience will transport the audience to Mars to experience the trials of the film’s protagonist, Mark Watney, a NASA astronaut who becomes stranded on the planet.

A three and a half minute sneak peek of the experience, Executive produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Robert Stromberg, has just launched on the Gear VR headset through Samsung’s VR video distribution app, Milk VR.

See Also: Samsung Launches ‘Milk VR’ Service for Curated 360 Video on Gear VR

While the sneak peek consists of both CGI and live-action shots rendered into a 360 degree video for playback on Gear VR, the full experience will debut in 2016 on desktop-class VR headsets and will be interactive (presumably rendered in real-time), and clock in between 15 and 20 minutes runtime, according to 20th Century Fox.

The Martian VR Experience sneak peek on Gear VR opens with the viewer floating slowly toward the Red Planet, with narration from the film setting the scene. In what appears to be an interesting mechanism to define the ideal gaze direction for the viewer, the voice of the narration becomes skewed in an interesting way when looking away from the planet, causing an intuitive desire to look in the direction providing the most clarity from the audio.

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Zooming closer, down to the planet’s topology and then down to the very surface, we eventually find ourselves beside the film’s protagonist, Mark Watney, who is unconscious, half covered in martian soil—a CGI recreation of the same scene from the film, which sounds to be borrowing audio from the film itself. Eventually the viewer takes a first-person perspective through Watney’s eyes, looking out of his dust covered helmet.

The next several scenes of the sneak peek play out in a montage-like fashion, giving glimpses of the full experience to come, including some impressively rendered 360 scenes of the rover vehicle depicted in the film.

Photo courtesy Fox Innovation Lab / 20th Century Fox

Given the limitations of 360 degree video alone (non-interactive), The Martian VR Experience sneak peak on Gear VR does a fine job of previewing the full blown experience which will debut in 2016 on desktop-class headsets. It isn’t clear yet on which headsets it will launch, but it will almost certainly find its way to the Oculus Rift, given Fox Innovation Lab’s partnership with Oculus as announced back in September.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • >>Given the limitations of 360 degree video alone (non-interactive), The Martian VR Experience sneak peak on Gear VR does a fine job of previewing the full blown experience …

    Imo, that’s being too soft.

    The entire experience was CG. Why wasn’t it rendered in Stereo 360?
    Here’s what it suffers from (imo)

    1) Mark, the astronaut looks like a giant tranformerbot.

    2) His helmet POV is like that of the command deck of the Starship Enterprise.

    3) The seat back of the cockpit, makes the audience feel like a cockroach.

    In short; in VR you can’t cheat scale.

    On the technical side, compositing / rigging is off (his hand going unconvincingly through martian soil… wrong depth cues when his fingers reach for the splinter protruding through the suit.

    I can fully understand if this were an indie hobby project – it would deserve full marks… but with budgets and talent of an AAA studio / Lab?

    I’m hoping it’s just a mistake of the stereo 360 version not being uploaded to MilkVR, or else, such demos are going to undermine the credibility of the GearVR as a platform for Cinematic VR filmmaking / viewing