Our Compass follows the story of the first child protection case in the US through the lens of contemporary survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence.
The experience highlights how the guidance of the Society for the Protection and Care of Children has provided a safe environment to heal and resources to turn lives around in a positive direction. FIVARS chats with director Susan Lakin on the creation of this VR experience.
What led to the creation of this piece?
We saw that immersive technology could be leveraged to tell a story in an empathetic way that traditional media could not do as well. Virtual reality provided the opportunity to tell the story of child abuse without exposing or specifically depicting children affected by domestic trauma.
What was the production process for you and your team? What did you learn?
It was a steep learning curve as there were few precedents for what we attempted to do in virtual reality. We essentially learned on the job. This is what made it exciting: experimenting with visceral techniques to draw the audience into the story.
How did you become an immersive media content creator and why?
As a former commercial photographer and current academic, I evolved my photography practice and teaching curriculum with every technological shift. First, with computer-generated imagery, then connecting the still image to moving media with augmented reality, and finally to immersive technology.
Frank Deese, the project co-producer and screenwriter, was new to working with immersive storytelling. His professional feature-length screenwriting career-focused, to a large extent, on creating stories for and about children. He also has a strong interest in history, so he was very much drawn to the Mary Ellen Wilson story.
The project illustrator, Isabelle Anderson, was introduced to extended reality in a course I teach at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She enthusiastically embraced the medium and taught herself Quill to complete her class project. We hired her to illustrate this story based on her coursework and interest in social justice.
What is the VR/AR industry like in your region?
We are at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I am the Director of Frameless Labs, a community of academics, students, and industry partners working in extended reality.
It is a vibrant working group of researchers, innovators, and artists contributing to the growth of immersive technology. We are fortunate to be close in proximity to the city of Toronto and were able to participate in the early days of FIVARS. At the forefront of immersive festivals, we are honored to be present at this leading event in 2023.
What do you have planned for the future?
I am building a new curriculum for a minor in extended reality at the Rochester Institute of Technology and producing an augmented reality community project in Rochester.
What would you like to share with fellow content creators and the industry?
It’s an exciting time, and I value the passion behind all the projects being showcased.
Do you think VR festivals like FIVARS are important?
Extremely important. It is one of the best methods to showcase work that may not otherwise be seen and to support the field’s continued growth.
FIVARS 2023 runs in person September 15-19th in Toronto and online through October 3rd.