Future of Storytelling Festival

The beauty of being human is that no experience is an isolated one. With every espresso we drink, every film we watch, and every shop we enter, all our senses (hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste) work cumulatively to help shape how we feel about those experiences.
One of my favorite modern scholars, Charles Spence at Oxford, conducted experiments which prove that coffee tastes better in mugs of particular shapes and colors. The sound of a coffee bean grinder is capable of intensifying the flavor and the perceived sweetness of the drink, and the color and intensity of light at the shop can define the amount of caffeine one would venture to consume. Mr. Spence has recently shared his latest research at the Future of Storytelling Festival, an intimate forum where leaders of the industry discuss the most fascinating advancements in the areas of non-fiction narratives, multi-sensory experiences and the neuroscience of storytelling.

The Future of Storytelling Playground located at 110 St. and 5 Ave. opened this Friday with 50 hands-on technology demos, virtual-reality and augmented-reality exhibits, interactive installations, panel conversations, films, games, and live theater performances. I stopped by at the venue to experience the future firsthand.

The festival is taking place at a new development Uptown Manhattan, with some 75,000 square feet of space used for the installations.

An immense number of props and artifacts set the theatrical mood for a casual visitor.


VR headsets ready to go.

A more rare type of experience at the festival is Famous Deaths by Dutch Frederik Duerinck, Marcel Van Brakel & Mark Meeuwenoord. Through scent and sound, the experience re-creates the final moments of two icons just before they died: Whitney Houston and John F. Kennedy. You’ll be rolled into a tight metal chamber to deprive you of external senses and then the scent printer located near the chamber will fume the scents to create a storyline: the smell of autumn wind, grass, leather car seats, Jackie Kennedy’s perfume, and exhaust fumes.


The experience lasts for around 4 minutes — enough to let some get genuinely immersed (and scared).

Three Experiences To Explore

An immersive, full-body installation and research project that explores the experience of being a bird in flight. To evoke this sensation, Birdly mainly relies on sensory-motor coupling and stereoscopic visuals provided by a head-mounted display.

Be Boy Be Girl
What does it feel to be the opposite sex? The shooting of the 360-degree 3D film material took place on Hawaii and was filmed with 16 cameras on a self-built rig. This camera rig was placed on top of the heads of several men and women to re-create the same perspective the viewer will have in the installation.

Job Simulator
The year is 2050. Robots cook, clean, service, and organize the world with precision and speed. Human occupations are now memories of the past; long gone are the nine-to-five jobs people once performed to run the world. This virtual-reality experience for motion-controlled VR platforms lets you experience what it was once like “to job.”

Visit the Future of Storytelling Playground
110 St. at 5 Ave., Manhattan
October 7—9
Tickets $75+


There are many other events happening this weekend including immersive theatre, exhibits, and panel talks. Download the festival guide on App Store.

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