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Tribeca and Cannes' virtual artfest is back, if you have a PC and VR

The XR3 festival should be the future of hybrid events.

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Madrid Noir, one of a number of XR3 VR experiences.

No Ghost / Atlas V

This summer, a lot of people are going to actual places in the real world. I've visited one really memorable place in the virtual world: the Museum of Other Realities, an app available on SteamVR that's hosting a joint showcase of immersive art and storytelling through July 17.

The XR3 Festival, a joint production between Cannes XR, Tribeca, and the NewImages, originally ran a few weeks ago alongside Tribeca's in-person film festival this year, but it's back for another run this month. Cannes and Tribeca had a similar showcase last summer in the The Museum of Other Realities app, but the offerings this year are new. The app is currently available for free, with the XR3 ticket split into three different $15 add-on purchases. It can add up, but it's a fascinating art trip if you have a gaming PC and VR gear.

I normally went to in-person events at Tribeca before the 2020 pandemic happened, where I'd experience in-person physical installations that also involved VR and AR tech. Tribeca resumed its in-person experiences this year for its film festival, but also continued its remote ticketed VR experience as an alternate way to attend. I love the idea -- it allows people who can't afford to travel, or get special access to Tribeca's hard-to-see immersive showcases, a chance to put on a VR headset at home and see what some of these special pieces are like. At-home immersive art have been the way I've been able to attend Cannes and Sundance without flying. I'd still love to go places in person in the future, but I want these virtual spaces to co-exist as a permanent feature of festivals.

Many of the short VR films are animated. Some wrestle with questions of race, identity and history. Running the apps requires having a VR-capable gaming PC running Steam or Viveport, and a PC-connected VR headset. The Oculus Quest or Quest 2 work using a USB-C cable to link to the PC, but the experience was sometimes buggy. The HP Reverb G2 (or any Windows Mixed Reality headset), Valve Index, HTC Vive, or Oculus Rift S are other solid options. I wish this festival could work entirely on an Oculus Quest 2 without a linked PC, but we're not quite there yet.

There are a few things to note: There are around 55 experiences overall, but the ticketing makes you pick one of three showcases (Cannes, Tribeca or NewImages), which gets a bit confusing. Also, the DLC download is a large multigigabyte set of files, so you'll need to set that up in advance. I mainly experienced the Tribeca offerings so far -- some of my favorite things were the stunning animated VR films (Madrid Noir, now available as a standalone Quest app, and Paper Birds). 

Not all of Tribeca's innovative interactive art exhibitions are available in the Museum of Other Reality's XR3 showcase, but trying VR art at home has been a pandemic tradition I want to continue for a long time.