A visit to the Kaleidoscope VR film festival requires headgear.
A visit to the Kaleidoscope VR film festival requires headgear. - 
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There’s a new film festival in town, but it requires headgear. The Kaleidoscope VR Film Festival has been touring North America and wraps up in Austin on October 14. I was one of the 400 people who checked it out when it came to New York.

At first, virtual reality can be a little disorienting. I put on the headset, read the health and safety warning on the screen, and launched into "The Night Café," the painting by Vincent Van Gogh. I used a touch pad on the side of my headset to move around the famous painting and ended up bumping into a lot of walls. Apparently, that’s part of the experience — and the experiment.

“No one knows how to tell a story in virtual reality right now,” said René Pinnell, festival founder. “To do it you’re going to have to fail. You’re going to have to try something that doesn’t work.”

Bumping into walls aside, it was pretty cool to get so close to Van Gogh’s bar. That film — or as people in the virtual reality world refer to it, that experience — was created by Mac Cauley, a Brooklyn-based game developer. It was just one of the experiences people could have at Kaleidoscope, a festival where filmmaking intersects with game playing.

From swivel chairs set in rows, festival attendees could also be transported to post-earthquake Nepal or to a devastated city in Syria. There were more abstract experiences as well: Animations like LoVR, in which infatuation is expressed in a vibrantly colored, 360-degree diagram.

From swivel chairs, festival attendees are transported to different experiences.
From swivel chairs, festival attendees are transported to different experiences. - 

“It seems like a great way to have a very short experience on your own,” said festival attendee Jana Fitzgerald.

With the medium in its infancy, though, there are still a lot of kinks to work out, like how to make the headsets less clunky and how to get rid of what’s called the “screen door effect,” overly pixelated images.

But Pinnell said those technological upgrades are only a matter of time.