Hong Kong VR company explains why boundless possibilities are a challenge, and how virtual reality is about to grow

Hong Kong VR company explains why boundless possibilities are a challenge, and how virtual reality is about to grow

Virtual reality is making all our sci-fi dreams come true

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Zachary puts one of Shadow Factory’s VR games to the test.
Photo: Alejo Rodriguez Lo/SCMP

Recent blockbusters like Ready Player One and Tron: Legacy have brought virtual reality (VR) to the big screen. But as fantastical as these films may seem, the potential of VR is real. One Hong Kong company exploring this potential is Shadow Factory, which provides virtual and augmented reality production services.

Young Post asked VR Supervisor and developer Alex Suttie, who has been with Shadow Factory since it was founded in November 2016, about the kind of projects he has been working on.

“We’ve done some games for ourselves and a host of different experiences for other companies,” he said. “That includes anything from 360 videos with computer graphics on top to fully interactive computer games. We try to tackle most things that get thrown our way.”

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Recently, Shadow Factory worked with Deliveroo to create a new satellite kitchen in Sai Ying Pun.

“The idea is that somebody can order their food, put on a VR headset and select the restaurant that they’ve just ordered from,” explained Suttie. “They get a 360 view of the restaurant in its original location and an interview with the chef talking about the different dishes. By the time you take off your headset, your food is sitting in front of you.”

While creating products for other companies can be interesting, Suttie admitted that the most fun projects are the ones where Shadow Factory is given full creative freedom. In fact, the real challenge is not getting too carried away with all the different possibilities.

“We have to try to figure out how to limit these massive worlds to a project that is doable in a reasonable period of time, because when you’re developing a computer game you could
go on for years.”

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One project the company is especially proud of is a psychological thriller experience called Hang Up – which we got to try out for ourselves. After putting on a headset, players find themselves in a scary room, sitting in front of an old telephone operator’s desk. They have to try to find the right frequency at which to listen in on a telephone conversation, and use the information they hear to piece together the story.

Tiny details fill all 360 degrees of the player’s view, right down to the stains on the walls of the room. The realism of the makes it truly terrifying; players will truly feel as if they are trapped in the room. “We presented it to people at the e-sports and gaming summit in Manila [in the Philippines] and they loved it,” Suttie said of the game. “It was great to see people not be able to make it through the whole game because they were too scared.”

A lot less frightening is a Hong Kong-inspired game called Grab Bag, in which players ride aboard one of the city’s famous trams and try to grab objects that are flying towards them. It’s a fully truly immersive experience – so much so that it’s easy to forget that you’re only a playing a game.

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And as improved virtual reality technology enters the market, opportunities within the industry will continue to grow.

“There are so many possibilities, especially now with real time engines becoming so crazy powerful.” said Suttie. He added that VR technology needn’t be limited to use in the entertainment industry. “Going to the gym could be equally exciting as playing computer games. Everyone would want to do it. We could even use virtual reality to provide schooling in places where you wouldn’t normally be able to. Eventually we’ll be able to create Hollywood level computer games which will be interactive in real time and VR.”

With a final nod to the virtual world of Ready Player One, Suttie joked: “We’ll basically be in the Oasis one day. The future of gaming has never been more exciting.”

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Stranger than fiction

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