The room is dimly lit with a few people milling around, carrying Samsung Gear VR headsets looking anxious as if the impending crowd will hold the golden ticket to their success. I'd been to Public Works in San Francisco before for other events but not for a tech event, let alone the first virtual reality film festival.
Held by Kaleidoscope, a virtual reality agency (yes, there are agencies for VR now) a company created by René Pinnell, a filmmaker and director and Michael Breymann, founder of Glyph Software, the film festival is currently showcasing 20 VR short films.
There are chairs in different areas of the venue, placed next to each other and separated into sections with a Samsung Note 4 version of Gear VR and Samsung Galaxy S6 Gear VR headsets on each seat. Films on Oculus Rift (DK2) had their own section as well.
I was directed to a headset and asked "what film would you like to watch" to which I replied "all of them, but whatever you think is best to start with." The demoer laughed and told me Colosse by Joseph Chen is a good place to start. He wasn't wrong.
I have a few VR devices already and I've seen quite a few of the Oculus 360 Degree features but sitting in a room full of other people with a Gear strapped to my face is a completely different experience. Even with the mobile VR, I was still transported to different worlds all the while being surrounded by 30 strangers.
It's still a solitary experience right now, but companies like AltSpaceVR - who is part of the traveling VR festival - are attempting meld social interaction with virtual space. Even Oculus itself is trying to remedy the loneliness of virtual reality by adding social functions to Oculus Cinema.
Regardless, I was still impressed with the films I watched and excitedly removed my headset to discuss various points with my partner sitting next to me. Once the "movie theater" experiments are fully functional in Oculus Cinema, I can definitely see this as the future of watching movies at home.
With the major headsets hitting shelves in 2016, we're going to need a lot of content. Fortunately, that shouldn't be a problem. The Kaleidoscope VR Film Fest is proof that there are brilliant filmmakers breaking the boundaries of the silver screen.