The Virtual Revolution has arrived in Africa and it’s here to stay. Last year I was in Johannesburg where I attended the African Futures festival to participate in a panel  as well as the VR Africa workshop, in collaboration with Big World Cinema. Pandora was also featured in the New Dimensions VR exhibition, which took place during the festival, and was curated by Ingrid Kopp, Creative Director at the Tribeca Film Institute. More from the organizers about the workshop:

The aim of this project is to introduce African storytellers and artists to VR, provide support and mentorship to them in the development and production of their ideas, and to start introducing African and audiences to African-­‐produced VR. We also intend to expose our African-­‐produced VR to the rest of the world through partnerships and relationships with existing festivals and exhibition spaces.

The workshop brought together six teams of participants from  South Africa, Kenya, Senegal, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Uganda. I attended with Kabiru Seidu, who is the co-founder of Nubian VR to represent Ghana/Nigeria.  It was truly inspiring to work alongside some of the most creative minds in Africa to explore the conceptual possibilities of virtual reality as an entirely new medium of expression. We even made a feature on a CNN article about the workshop.

I was very much impressed by the ambition and efforts of the organizers in bringing these event together, and I’m really excited about the VR projects we will be collaborating on in the near future. This entire trip was a great opportunity for Nubian VR, and we didn’t waste the opportunity to do some live action VR recording while we were out on the trail. You can view a 360 video of the final concert with Gato Preto live at the Alexander Theater in Braamfontein.

 
This year, I collaborated on a project for the Dakar Biennale, called Elsewhen, organized by the Dakar based fashion designer Selly Raby Kane. The Elsewhen project was a creative exploration of a fictional African city in an alternate universe, brought to life through the imaginations of seven different artists from across the continent. My own intervention was in creating the storyworld in the form of short fiction, as well as a mixed reality installation which used elements of virtual and augmented reality to transport viewers into a reconstruction of this alternate universe. The virtual experience was designed for Gear VR, using the Vuforia SDK for the augmented reality interface.

The installation featured a hexagonal podium inside a geodesic dome that represented the portal into Elsewhen. A portrait of an Akan mask was used as the trigger image for an augmented reality interface which initiated the transition to the virtual world. The audio was split between a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and a subwoofer installed beneath the podium, which added a tactile dimension (subsonic vibrations!) to the experience.

 

After witnessing the reactions of about 300 people who tried the experience, I’m utterly convinced that virtual reality has a future in Africa. Mobile technology will be critical to adoption because of the accessibility it offers. Millions of people in Africa already have one half of a VR device in their hands, and that number will only keep rising. I really look forward to the day when African kids casually boot up virtual environments and use their imaginations to shape the architecture of the metaverse. These are early days still, but the future is looking brighter by the minute.

I’m very excited to finally announce the release of PANDORA – an experimental 360-degree virtual reality short film made in Accra, Ghana. The film is an experimental attempt to create a uniquely African VR experience while re-imagining the myth of Pandora, ultimately to provoke critical thought about the unforeseen consequences of technological progress.  The film was directed by myself and produced with Kabiru Seidu, a colleague with whom I also teamed up to organize a VR exhibition at the 2015 CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival, where this film was first presented.

The PANDORA project was sponsored by Accra [dot] Alt, organizers of CHALE WOTE and crusaders of the underground art scene in Accra. The part of “Pandora” was played by Doris Mamley Djangmah. Angelantonio Grossi was instrumental in providing technical assistance during post-production. The film features the soundtrack Second Class Citizen by Dexter Britain.

For the full 360-degree experience of PANDORA, use the latest version of Chrome, Firefox, or the YouTube mobile app:

 

Working with virtual reality has been one of my lifelong dreams which is finally metamorphosing into reality. I’ve been designing VR headsets since I was a kid, but I only started building real (as in working) models in November last year when I first discovered the joys of Google Cardboard. This year Kabiru and I joined forces to organize the PANDORA VR exhibition at the 2015 Chale Wote Street Arts festival, and to create NubianVR, an Accra-based VR content production company dedicated to creating immersive, interactive multimedia experiences for a diverse range of applications. The PANDORA project was our first attempt at producing a 360-degree video, but we’re building our capacity to produce high-quality VR content in the near future.

This short film was screened on custom-built headsets featuring several additions to the Google Cardboard design, including a flexible plastic case, 2” lenses (90+ FOV), independently adjustable IPD, passive ventilation, integrated audio and USB power/data interfaces. The footage was recorded with a dual Kodak SP360 camera rig in one weekend and stitched together during the editing stage. Everyone who took part in the exhibition (kids and adults) got a chance to try out the 3-minute VR experience for free, most of them for the very first time.

I’ll be revealing more about NubianVR in the weeks and months ahead as we continue to establish ourselves and define our focus. I’ll also talk about some exciting projects and events lined up on the calendar. From my viewpoint, 2016 looks set to become the turning point for virtual reality as an entirely new medium of expression, one which has the potential to completely transform the way in which we create and share experiences. VR is already laying its foundations in Africa, and you can be sure it’s here to stay. I’m thrilled to be playing a part in all this, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

On Saturday 5th May, five authors from five continents will be reading science fiction stories on the Secondlife Virtual Reality platform, inside Kafe Kruemelkram in the Ataria region. I’m very excited to represent the African continent in this historic undertaking, which I hope will become a trend in the future.

The Science Fiction Literature Mega Event:

Five Continent Reading in Second Life

As we say in Germany: Great events throw their shadows ahead.
On May 5th an event will take place in Thorsten Küper’s and Kirsten Riehl’s steampunk location Kafé Kruemelkram that may be unique in the history of Second Life: Five science fiction writers from five continents, all writing in English, will read from their works live. I’ll be honoured to take the part of Europe and read one of my English stories. The invited writers are:

For Asia: Guy Hasson (Israel) http://guyhasson.wordpress.com/
For Africa: Jonathan Elorm Dotse (Ghana) http://www.afrocyberpunk.com/
For South America: Gustavo Bondoni (Argentina) http://bondo-ba.livejournal.com/
For North America: Ahmed A. Khan (Canada) http://ahmedakhan.livejournal.com/
For Europe: Michael Iwoleit (Germany) http://iwoleit.wordpress.com/

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Ataria/60/182/51