Cycle of Life was one of XPR’s earliest forays into virtual environments — however, unlike XPR’s live entertainment venues, Cycle of Life is intended to be a piece of immersive experiential art. While it is best experienced in VR, the environment is also accessible on desktop computers.
In Cycle of Life, users enter the virtual world as crash-landed spacefarers, stumbling out of the wreckage of a ruined starship. They exit into a bleak environment, where the dim lighting of a starlit sky barely illuminates gray, stony ground, and a shattered moon hangs eerily overhead. They then meet a friendly, floating robot, which prompts the user to pick up a glowing stone and then proceed down a hill to a lonely, secluded lake.
Then, the user is encouraged to toss in the stone — and the experience truly begins. Over the next 10 to 15 minutes, the environment changes, undergoing a rapid terraforming-inspired transformation. The sun rises, moss and grass grows underfoot, and the sky becomes an idyllic blue. Trees sprout from the earth, birds soar amongst the clouds, and deer roam the lakeside.
During the experience, the user is free to roam within and interact with the world, surrounded by nature-inspired visuals and spatial audio. Towards the end, however, the user is confronted by a circle of mysterious spirits, who reset the world back to its original state and cause the user’s vision to fade to black.
Ultimately, Cycle of Life is an excellent proof of concept, showing the potential that virtual reality has to enable artistic expression. As one of XPR’s early developments, it also proved to be an excellent opportunity to develop virtual worlds that change over time and can be interacted with by users. Cycle of Life created a new type of immersive experience, where users could experience an immersive story with near-complete freedom, while still being limited by a linear timeline and overall time restriction.
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