"If anyone had told me in 2014 that I would be doing a Convergence Keynote at SXSW, I would have laughed...I never expected to be in the immersive space." – Jessica Brillhart
Jessica Brillhart is an immersive director, writer, and theorist. In her SXSW Keynote, Brillhart talked about her independent studio, Vrai Pictures, along with the many projects she has worked on including Google Jump, a virtual reality live-action capture ecosystem, as the former Principal Filmmaker for VR at Google.
Brillhart discussed one of her recent projects, Beethoven's Fifth, which was featured in the SXSW Virtual Cinema program last year. She wanted to dig deeper into the concept of hearing and accessibility, especially given the composer's creation of music despite his deafness. "I wanted to build the experience from the ground up with both the act of hearing and deafness considered, " Brillhart said.
When the project premiered at Sheffield Doc/Fest, people showed up at the installation who were deaf and Brillhart noted that this was the first time they felt a virtual reality experience that was made for them. Among those at the premiere, many people who had the ability to hear still took off their headphones. "We had people who willingly, unprovoked, made themselves deaf, because they felt that was the experience they were missing," Brillhart said.
"Accessibility tends to be an afterthought and something that is tacked on at the end. But, if we actually build our experiences in from the get go with this in mind, from the very start, we can create more amazing experiences better than we thought we could, and we owe that to each other and ourselves to do."
Wanting to use more technologies and go with her gut, Brillhart founded her own company, Vrai Pictures in 2018. Some of the big picture concepts they are working on include augmented reality, spatial audio, and building new technologies.
Additionally, Brillhart had another project, Traverse (World Premiere) that was a part of the 2019 Virtual Cinema competition. Traverse is a platform for spatial audio experiences. Using a mobile device and audio-driven AR technology, each Traverse experience takes an audio recording and makes it something you can physically move through. The project ended up winning a SXSW Film Awards Special Jury Recognition Award for The Future of Experience.
Watch Brillhart's full Convergence Keynote SXSW 2019 and check out more videos from SXSW 2019 on our YouTube channel.
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Convergence Keynote Jessica Brillhart - Photo by Adrianne Schroeder