From Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein: The Sundance Film Festival may not seem like a place for contemplating the frightening speed with which technology is revolutionizing media. But even those who came to Park City just to watch good old-fashioned cinema got a taste of what’s to come at Passage Pictures’ afterparty Monday for its new film “Marjorie Prime.”
The film depicts an aged woman interacting with a hologram of her deceased husband’s younger self. While that may seem like something out of some fantastical future far from our own lifetimes, partygoers were actually greeted by a hologram of the character, played by Jon Hamm, rendered all too realistically by tech firm 8i.
But as eye-popping a sight as that might have been, those who took time away from Sundance’s film scene to attend the festival’s New Frontier program might not have been as amazed. In its 11th year of operation, New Frontier has always offered plenty to explore at the intersection of art and technology. And this year proved no exception, as a renewed focus on virtual reality exhibitions gave attendees a good sense of how far this budding category has come in terms of providing consumers newfangled thrills akin to a Hamm hologram.
But while New Frontier has shone a spotlight on VR for the past five years, 2017 represents a particularly crucial juncture for the technology. This year’s showcase comes after a full year of availability for all sorts of hardware dedicated to VR viewing. What throughout its tortured history seemed about as commercially viable as jetpacks is now a reality, bringing a newfound urgency to the content exhibited at New Frontier.
Which isn’t to say VR is basking in the glow of being The Next Big Thing either. As headset manufacturers from Sony to Samsung have discovered the hard way, adoption of this technology is coming along slowly. To borrow research firm Gartner’s famous “hype cycle” paradigm, VR currently finds itself in the inevitable “trough of disillusionment” that hits just about every product innovation cursed by unreasonably high expectations.