jim-wilsonSamsung had a huge presence at Sundance this year as the mobile sponsor of the festival. They were evangelizing Gear VR to independent filmmakers with their Gear VR theater as well as collaborating with Sundance’s New Frontier program to provide Gear VR headsets for the mobile VR selection of cinematic VR experiences. I had a chance to catch up with Jim Wilson, who is the director of immersive products & VR for Samsung. He’s in charge of making sure the Milk VR has plenty of new 360-degree video experiences through various collaborations with professional and independent producers. Jim and I talked about the consumer launch of Gear VR, their plans for supporting cinematic VR experiences through their Indie Challenge Program, as well as the challenges of marketing VR through 2D mediums.

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Samsung premiered the first VR short from Funny or Die, which was called Interrogation. It’s a narrative sketch that stars comedians Rob Heubel and Paul Sheer. The experience puts you in the hot seat of a police investigation where you can “feel what it’s like to be the suspect of a horrible crime in the hot seat of an interrogation room, getting grilled by the worst detectives in the business.” They were also showing episodes of their interactive thriller on Milk VR called GONE. There were lines of people outside of the theater all week long waiting to get a glimpse of some of the latest narrative VR content.

Jim also talks about Samsung’s Gear Indie program to provide an outlet for independent 360-video content. They also announced the first five winners of the Gear Indie Challenge at Sundance with each winner taking home $10,000.

One of the major applications of Gear VR within the VR space will be the non-interactive cinematic VR experiences, and their presence as a sponsor at Sundance and throughout the New Frontier spaces sent the clear message that storytelling within VR is something that is part of Samsung’s long-term strategy in VR moving forward. In fact, Samsung also announced that they’re opening up a VR Production studio in New York City saying that, “We love stories.” So I’d expect to see a strong Samsung presence at other independent film events, and within film circles in LA and NYC.

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