Oculus deploys virtual reality hedgehog to lure filmmakers

Wed Jul 29, 2015 12:57pm EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy and Lisa Richwine

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (Reuters) - In a Beverly Hills mansion on Tuesday, Facebook-owned Oculus rolled out "Henry," a movie that takes advantage of its virtual reality technology to tell the story of a hug-obsessed hedgehog.

The company's pitch is to lure filmmakers to use the technology and produce content that attracts consumers for the Rift, its virtual reality headset.

Oculus doesn't plan to sell "Henry," the second film from its film division, Story Studios, which employs both video game engineers and former Pixar animators. It is part of a slate of five short animated films that will be created over the next year.

The films use VR technology to immerse viewers in the story. In "Henry," viewers don a headset to virtually enter a treehouse in which they can look around the 360-degree environment and sit at a table as Henry celebrates his birthday.

"Right now there are no plans for the monetization of Story Studios. It's to develop experimental stuff," Oculus founder Palmer Luckey told Reuters in an interview.

Hollywood is debating whether virtual reality will take off and how producers will make money from the technology.

Award-winning directors such as Guillermo del Toro, as well as Walt Disney Co's LucasFilm, are testing out the platform.

But Netflix, one of Hollywood's biggest buyers of content, is not rushing in, chief content officer Ted Sarandos told Reuters.   Continued...

The animated character Henry is shown in a scene from the 3D virtual reality film of the same name, in this undated publicity photo released to Reuters on July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Oculus/Handout via Reuters