FIVARS Festival

FIVARS – Virtual Reality Festival Toronto 2015 – In review

FIVARS presented by VRTO 2015 – In review
The inaugural Festival of International Virtual and Augmented Reality Stories in Toronto took place between Friday September 18th and Monday September 21st, 2015.

The focus of this event was the examination of new narrative possibilities with the emergent media platform of virtual and augmented reality. Through panel discussions and a carefully selected catalog of exhibits – each representing a different possible presentational framework – FIVARS squeezed the discourse on new potentialities for storytelling, attempting important distinctions between games, ambient installations and actually narrative projects.

DorkShelf magazine said “FIVARS at least offers a glimpse at the artistic potential of an entirely new medium,” and Culturetrip said “Here are some experiences that will turn VR skeptics into fanatics.”

VRTO and the FIVARS crew provided:
Event Stats

  • 1000+ VR viewings served
  • over 4 days (including an educational outreach day at Toronto’s Metro Hall Rotunda, and People’s Choice Award at the Cadillac Lounge on Queen St. W)
  • a total of 12 viewing stations
  • 24 different VR experiences
  • representing 11 different countries
    • Canada
    • England
    • Germany
    • Ireland
    • Mongolia
    • New Zealand
    • Norway
    • Russia
    • Syria
    • UK
    • USA

We had a diverse selection – ranging from cinematic to CG, relaxation to horror, documentaries and educational experiences – to startle us awake into alternate, visceral experiential possibilities. All in attendance had a great chance to view a minimum of 30 minutes of VR experiences and many returned for seconds and thirds.

Public enjoys virtual reality at Toronto's Metro Hall Rotunda
Public enjoys virtual reality at Toronto’s Metro Hall Rotunda

Councilman Norm Kelly and his wife Charlotte at FIVARS, Metro Hall public outreach event
L to R: Festival director Keram Malicki-Sánchez, Councilman Norm Kelly and his wife Charlotte, VR Community Liaison Joseph Ellsworth, at FIVARS, Metro Hall public outreach event

People’s Choice Award Winners
The People’s Choice award was divided into two categories: one for interactive experiences, and the other for immersive video experiences.

The ballot voting system:

  • Based on a 1-5 rating
  • 1 staff-attended ballot per viewing
  • Average results based on total score divided by number of ballots

Ballot results for all submissions was a score of 3 or higher, with many of them being over 4 out of 5. This was a strong indicator we got the right content, and that people enjoyed watching the way it was presented at FIVARS.

FIVARS - Meg White
This is Meg White, one of FIVARS’ specially trained volunteers.

The People Have Spoken
In the interactive experience – as shown on the Oculus Rift – the winner was Apollo 11, providing the ability to experience John F. Kennedy’s unimaginably ambitious speech about landing on the moon, the first moments of space travel, and the legimitately transportive experience of sitting in the pod atop the massive Saturn V rocket as you can shift positions slightly in the seated experience to look from multiple angles into takeoff.

This VR experience from VR Immersive Education, located in Ireland, was over 19 minutes long, and we believe it shall have a great future in education at schools, museums, and other locations.

The People’s Choice award for video experiences, as shown on the Samsung Gear VR, went to Sonar, a rendered 360 stereoscopic video that nonetheless feels highly immersive.

In this piece, Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg GmbH used a combination of 360 3D CGI and atmospheric audio to create a dread-inducing approach wherein the unknown turns out to be far worse than you imagined. Utilizing the sense of scale and personal space that virtual reality uniquely affords as a medium, Sonar arrived to us Germany, and it is just over 6 minutes long.

Man watching VR
Every experience proved a fascinating experiment in its own right, and simply because it may have received a lower score in no way diminished its significance, but rather provided great insight into how various techniques resonate with a broad spectrum of end users.

And Beyond
Next year, we expect a much larger audience as awareness of VR and AR grows. According to, in the coming years, there will be many more stations, including a greater diversity of hardware and a variety of AR experiences as well. We will make sure to
Transfer Electric communications when we send out the call for submissions – roughly halfway throughout the year – we look forward to seeing your entries. Based on what we have seen so far, we expect many of your teams & companies will have new submissions for next year’s festival, as well as many more new companies and countries in attendance.

Thank you again to the volunteers, sponsors, exhibitors and content creators, the panelists, the hardware companies, venues, and most importantly the audience, for making this such an incredible, historic occasion.

Thank you,

Keram Malicki-Sánchez
Festival Director

Joseph Ellsworth
Technical Director & Community Liaison

The FIVARS and VRTO Crew, from Left to Right:
Sarah Bradley, Josh Miles Joudrie, Chrissy Aitchison, Joseph Ellsworth, Adriel Malicki-Sanchez, Adam Fimio, Owen Devine, Corina Death, Keram Malicki-Sanchez, Meg White, Jessy Blaze, Jason “DJ Shine” Spanu

Stay tuned as this article will be expanded.

FIVARS Festival