Geo Week News

February 21, 2017

Zero Days: Virtual Reality Documentary Makes you the Virus


If you’ve seen the documentary Zero Days, you already know the story about Stuxnet, a computer virus developed by the United States and Israeli governments to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. But do you know what Zero Days VR is?

Developed by Alex Gibney, the director of the original Zero Days, Zero Days VR takes you on the same journey—from the virus’ point of view.

Zero Days VR was designed for Oculus Rift, and developed by production studio Scatter, with the help of its “sister company” DepthKit, which provides tools to capture, edit, and publish volumetric experiences. Both companies had already worked on Alex Gibney’s original documentary, capturing a set of interviews with NSA whistleblowers using volumetric holograms. This approach enabled the whistleblowers to keep their anonymity while still giving them a platform to speak.

The VR version is only fifteen minutes long, but it’s enough for Scatter to accomplish its objective. As you take the role of Stuxnet, you go through the cyberworld of an Iranian nuclear facility, gaining an understanding for how the virus spread and managed to take it down. The experience provides you an idea of what the stakes are and how much of an impact cyber warfare can have nowadays.

In one of the key points of this journey, you’re faced with a NSA informant as she explains the urgency of the Stuxnet virus—and then you see your own volumetric hologram sitting across her. Executive producer and technical advisor James George said this was possible with the help of an Intel RealSense R200 camera in combination with the DepthKit SDK.

In an interview with VR Scout, George added: “It could be gimmicky if it weren’t for the fact that it really drives home that even though this is an abstract space that you’re seeing, these viruses and virtual weapons actually have physical real-world consequences, so we want to make sure people feel it close to home.”

Yasmin Elayat, Scatter’s creative director said: “I think, at least when everyone’s taking it off and there’s like a ‘I’m a little scared, I’m a little nervous,’ that’s kind of the reaction we want to get, we want people to really get it and care about the topic.”

However, this is not DepthKit’s first VR experience with volumetric filmmaking. In 2015, they raised $45 thousand on Kickstarter to develop Blackout, a Unity-based movie that made use of DepthKit’s volumetric tools and HTC Vive. You took the role of a passenger in a train with the ability to read other people’s minds. The objective here was to change the way you judge, perceive or connect with someone else.

This type of filmmaking opens up different opportunities not only for the film industry. Especially with VR hitting the enterprise world, I can see this type of volumetric experiences being used in different subjects such as company recruitment phases or presentations, and medical applications.

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