the-infinite

The Infinite is a location-based VR experience that allows you to freely roam around an architectural abstraction of the International Space Station with friends and family, and it has 360 video photospheres that transport you to nearly 60 excerpts and outtakes from the Primetime Emmy Award-winning cinematic VR piece Space Explorers: The ISS Experience. The experience is produced by Infinity Experiences, which is a joint venture between PHI Studio and Felix & Paul Studios that leverages the physical VR exhibition & art curation experience from PHI Studio, and the VR design & 360-degree footage shot in space by Felix & Paul Studios. Overall, The Infinite is really compelling set of immersive experiences that taps into the many moments of awe and wonder from Felix & Paul’s cinematic VR work, but is grounded in a shared social experience with friends and family that also integrates other cutting-edge immersive art.

Structurally, The Infinite starts by walking into a completely white space where cohorts of 14 people walk into a triangle room that plays audio clips to help set the context for entering their space experience. It then moves onto the VR on-boarding section that is finely tuned to yield a maximum throughput of 168 people per hour. It features instructions from docents in to enter an augmented Meta Quest 2 VR headset, and then further virtual instructions helping to guide you through the experience. You can see your immediate party members in VR as an outline of a person with glowing yellow sphere at their heart, and other people within your cohort have blue spheres that only show up if you’re close to them. They have 3 rules to not run, not walk backwards, and to not swing your arms around to help to prevent collisions between people, but rendering other visitors in the experience helps to mitigate that. The experience automatically distributes other users throughout the more than 10,000 square feet tracking volume, which has green lights on the floor that serve as fiducial markers to help maintain consistent tracking.

The VR portion of The Infinite is split into two parts with four 8-minute chapters in the first part, and a 10-minute cinematic VR film in the second part. The bulk of the 35-minute VR experience is walking around an abstracted depiction of the ISS in order to go into one of the nearly 60 cinematic VR clips represented by a glowing photosphere. The four chapters chronologically track the journey of astronauts training other astronauts how to live in space starting with Chapter 1 of Adaptation (14 unique video clips), Progress (14 clips), Unity (13 clips), and concluding with Expansion (11 clips). There’s also 5 video clips outside of the ISS that are available within each chapter. The VR portion of the experience concludes by showing everyone the 10-minute Spacewalkers which is the first-ever, cinematic spacewalk captured in 3D, 360° virtual reality shot outside the ISS on September 12, 2021.

Cohorts of 14 audience members then are taken out of VR and then exit through a series of three pieces of immersive art that feature a Powers of 10 inspired piece about scale, a hall of mirrors wormhole, and then finally a piece of art based on Earth as you look at a virtual window on the ceiling with sunlight beaming down onto the ground.

Overall, it was a really satisfying combination, and a really well thought-out onboarding and offboarding user journey. This experience will likely serve as the first highly-polished VR experience for many people, and it is able to facilitate enough of a shared experience to connect with friends and family, but also enough variation and difference as there nearly 60 clips included but only time to watch a dozen or so.

The Infinite originally opened in Montreal on August 17, 2021, then moved to Houston on December 20, 2021, and recently opened in Seattle-Tacoma, Washington on May 25, 2022. It will opening up in San Francisco for five months later in 2022, followed by Chicago, and then potentially opening in smaller venues after that. Tickets can be bought on their TheInfiniteExperience.world website.

After, I had a chance to go through The Infinite in Seattle-Tacoma on June 2nd, then I was able to break down the experience and process of creating it with Félix Lajeunesse, Co-Founder and a Creative Director of Felix & Paul Studios and Julie Tremblay, Executive Producer at PHI Studio creating VR exhibits for the past five years.

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