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MIT Better World

The nine-minute virtual reality (VR) experience begins in a desolate valley surrounded by dark, imposing mountains. Then a small light appears, guiding the virtual pilgrim through an escalating series of scenes and sounds that culminate in a joyous, unified vision of shared human connection. Pushing the boundaries of art and technology, Reveal’s message is as intensely personal as it is universal.

The experience was conceived in spring 2018 by filmmaker and MIT Sloan Executive MBA alumna Victoria Bousis MBA ’18 for MIT’s hands-on humanities class CMS.339 Virtual Reality and Immersive Media Production (aka “Hacking XR”). Bousis drew heavily from her experiences on a pilgrimage she had taken to India and Nepal in 2015. Along with a team of classmates, Bousis reimagined and recreated some of the locations she’d visited, such as the Himalayan Mountains and Dhamek Stupa in Sarnath, India, where it is believed that the Buddha gave his first teaching after achieving enlightenment.

Bousis initially wanted to create a “cool and edgy” experience for her VR project. Then, sitting in church, she had an epiphany: “I saw Reveal in its entirety and completed the entire mood board as soon as I got home,” she recalls. “It all aligned into a higher story.” Parker Greene ’18 (who begins his graduate studies in computer science at MIT this fall) and undergraduate comparative media studies and computer science joint major Danny Gelman ’20, along with visiting Boston University student Alicia Hong, signed on to help Bousis turn her vision into virtual reality.

Created in 2017 by instructor Sandra Rodriguez in collaboration with comparative media studies professor William Uricchio, Hacking XR introduces students to a holistic view of VR as a medium, giving as much weight to the craft of storytelling as to emerging technologies such as Oculus, Samsung Gear, and Hololense. “You need to understand the technical tools,” says Rodriguez, a visiting scholar at MIT and head of creative reality at Montreal’s Emmy-winning EyeSteelFilm. “But this class is about creativity, overcoming challenges, and contributing to the culture of pioneers.”

Having completed her MIT studies, Bousis plans to establish a startup to explore the use of biometric data to create personalized, responsive VR experiences. “VR as a medium is incredibly powerful,” notes Bousis. “It increases your neuroplasticity and can actually rewire the networking in your brain in very positive ways. Just imagine what we can do with it.”

Directed and written by: Victoria Bousis
Produced by: Victoria Bousis, Parker Greene, Danny Gelman, and Alicia Hong
Creative and technical director: Parker Greene
Character design and 2-D animation: Danny Gelman
Sound design: Victoria Bousis and Alicia Hong