Culture

Experiencing Mr. Robot in VR: It was here, now it's gone

Appointment viewing comes to virtual reality with a one-time experience (don't worry, it's coming back soon). So what was it like?

This might be the future. Limited-time engagements in virtual reality. Be there, try it, experience it. Then it's gone.

Mr. Robot debuted a one-viewing-only VR experience today at 1:45 p.m. ET. Created by Sam Esmail and produced via the Within app, it played across mobile and desktop VR systems. I downloaded the roughly 1GB file before it started, set a reminder alarm, then put my Gear VR on.

The experience was about 10 minutes, as many VR experiences tend to be. It's a journey through Elliot Alderson's memories (played by Rami Malek), and his relationship with Shayla Nico (played by Frankie Shaw). Spoiler protection: I've only watched Mr. Robot midway through Season 1. This VR episode, a flashback, didn't spoil anything for me. And I won't spoil anything for you.

The whole journey consists of flashbacks to the beginning of their relationship. In Elliot's apartment, I found myself suspended in the air, watching him and Shayla get to know each other. I followed them to a Ferris wheel in Coney Island. I watched them in bed. Perspectives kept shifting. Shot in 360-degree video, the quality held in decently on Gear VR. After I watched, the app wouldn't let me play it again.

The idea was to time this as a unique Comic-Con exclusive, a one-shot. The video will appear again next week, apparently, but for now it was something I had to show up to see. Appointment viewing for VR, just like live TV in the past. This happened already for sports and debates; maybe it will happen in entertainment and theater next.

How many more short experiences will come and go in VR? And how many TV shows and movies will add on extra experiences? Mr. Robot isn't the first, and it won't be the last. But it's worth seeing next week if you missed it today.