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Virtual reality doesn’t have to stick to transporting you to realistic settings. You can use the technology to visit worlds previously seen in animated films.

Studio Ghibli films like My Neighbor Totoro are coming to life in virtual reality thanks to developer Nick Pittom, and you can download it now for free to try with your Oculus Rift or HTC Vive headsets. Ghibli is a renowned film studio in Japan responsible for some of the most beloved animated movies of all time. To experiment with VR spaces and storytelling, Pittom imported quick scenes from three of those films: TotoroHowl’s Moving Castle, and Spirited Away. These are only demos, but each scene emphasizes how VR could change the way people interact with impossible fantasy worlds. And from this starting point, analysts predict that virtual storytelling will help push this new industry to $40 billion in revenues by 2020.

I hopped into the Ghibli VR Demos, and you can see what I found in the video below:


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All three scenes feel incomplete. The environments are mostly noninteractive, but they are still mesmerizing to explore. That’s because you don’t typically get the chance to walk around inside of a cartoon.

What’s amazing is how quickly your brain accepts everything you’re seeing as reality. Nothing looks realistic, but I still felt like I was moving around a physical place. This should likely convince creators that they don’t need to struggle building an accurate VR world with hyperreal visuals. Instead, put us in a painting and focus on interesting ways to tell a story.

But, be careful if you decide to put something like Totoro in the game because I was a little sad when I went to hug him and couldn’t feel him hugging back.


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