VR Events

FIVARS Festival of Virtual Reality Stories Celebrates 5th Anniversary

A Festival Powered by VR

“5 years in VR, is like dog years,” says FIVARS festival founder Keram Malicki-Sanchez, not a trace of irony in his expression. The international festival of virtual and augmented reality stories he launched in 2015 has run every year against the Toronto International Film Festival – the world’s largest film festival.

Why run a tiny independent festival for a fledgling technology against the sprawling red carpets, Oscar-winning celebs and paparazzi?

“FIVARS is designed to showcase the finest new immersive content from around the world, and I loved how TIFF had exposed me to so many films I would never see anywhere else – the things I didn’t know that I didn’t know. I wanted to bring that to the foreground for immersive media and keep it there. Culture is at the centre of our show.”

FIVARS has always been heavily focused on UX for audiences, using Cleanbox machines to sterilize headsets, using their RipTix system invented by Joseph Ellsworth, to manage queue times, and privacy and discretion while maintaining the fun of social experience in the way that the layout of the event is setup. After five years the festival has learned a lot of lessons and tricks.

In year 5, the show features over 35 pieces from over 12 countries.

Adventures in Six Degrees of Freedom

Some highlights include “Memoria: Stories of La Garma” – a powerful 6DoF experience from the Rafael Pavon about early cave dwellers and the rich culture they left behind through artefacts, paintings and bones. Rafael Pavon started as creative director at the legendary studio Future Lighthouse where he worked in projects like Ray, Melita, Campfire Creepers and Snatch VR. In 2018, he leads the creative department at the Disney-backed immersive studio Jaunt and then became creative director at the award-winning studio AtlasV.


The show also features “Deep Connection” by Marilene Oliver – an incredibly ambitious experience featuring coroplast sculptures with body sensors and laser scanners that enable you to experience full-body MRI scans. Users can walk around the life-sized body, and real-life motion-tracked sculptures, dive inside it to see its inner workings, as well as ‘animate’ the body by holding its hand to make the heartbeat and lungs breathe.

Deep Connection VR experience by Marilene Oliver
Deep Connection VR experience by Marilene Oliver

Screensavers” from Ben Vance/FLOAT lets you dive into the world of 1980’s screensavers in VR. I mean…how can it get any cooler than that? “What began as a utilitarian application became less of a tool to keep static pixels from burning the screens of CRT’s and more a canvas for us to project our imaginations. Stop staring at your screen—dive in and save virtual reality!”

These and many more wonders await.

FIVARS runs its 5th annual festival in Toronto September 13th-15th at the Toronto Media Arts Centre – learn more at

Full disclosure: this blog is owned by Constant Change Media Group, Inc. who also operates the FIVARS festival.

HTC Vive Oculus Rift

Hatsune Miku VR Review

Hatsune Miku fans with a VIVE or an Oculus rejoiced this March, as Hatsune Miku VR was released on Steam. In this action/rhythm game, players use the controllers to hit musical notes that fly towards them to the rhythm of Miku’s lyrics. It’s a fun game, but fans of Miku will definitely appreciate it more than anyone going in blind.

Let’s dial it back a moment and touch on the basics. Hatsune Miku is a software voicebank created by Crypton Future Media a little over ten years ago. Without diving too deep in to the rich history of what is now known as Vocaloid, the company has released hundreds of these voicebanks, each personified with an anime character. Hatsune Miku was one of the original Vocaloids, and has garnered fame and popularity world-wide with her largest fan-base in Asia. Japan especially has always held a love for the Japanese Vocaloid, with her likeness and songs appearing in a plethora of advertisements all over the country.

What makes Vocaloid so interesting is that anyone can create Vocaloid songs and release full albums. There are literally thousands of Vocaloid albums out there, ranging over every genre imaginable at the hands of very talented independent producers all over the world. I could talk about Vocaloid for hours, so let’s get back to the game.

Hatsune Miku VR screenshot

Hatsune Miku’s first North American foray into VR was on the PSVR in 2016. Titled Hatsune Miku: VR Future Live, it wasn’t very well-received, even among fans. It was basically a concert simulator. Seeing Hatsune Miku perform live is a very interesting experience; (holograms of Vocaloids, a room full of passionate fans wielding glow-sticks, incredibly talented musicians playing the songs live, one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever been to). Be that as it may, perhaps having an awkward pricing model and not including any sort of actual gameplay may have been a bad decision in hindsight.

Luckily, fans finally have a Miku game worth playing. Hatsune Miku VR doesn’t quite play like the PS3 and PS4 titles, but at least there’s substance there, albeit a small amount. Hatsune Miku games usually have around 40 songs to play, with Future Tone clocking in astoundingly around the 250 number. Additional songs are released as DLC packages, which is promised with Hatsune Miku VR. At the moment though, upon release only eight songs are available with only two difficulty levels instead of the usual four. The eight songs chosen are fantastic, and most have been staples in the Vocaloid library for years.

Hastune Miku VR has four icons behind the stage, which music notes emerge from. In the center is Miku herself, dancing to the beat and singing complex lyrical rhythms. The notes will come out towards the player not to the rhythm to the song, but to the rhythm of the lyrics as previously mentioned. The object of the game is to get the highest possible score in each round, which is done by building combos from not missing any notes. It’s not necessarily more difficult than the other Miku titles, but for sure it’s different. I worked up a bit of a sweat playing on a harder difficulty. Even though you only need to hit 4 different areas, the notes come at you fast and furiously making this a moderately physical VR title.

If you’re a Vocaloid fan with a VIVE or an Oculus, you probably have already purchased this game and most likely have played each song several times. It’s an addiction, one that we don’t want a cure for.


Interactive Cinematic Augmented Reality Experience “City of Ghosts” to Premiere at FIVARS Festival

On September 7th, 2017, CieAR announced that its interactive, Augmented Reality “film” experience, City of Ghosts, will premiere as an official selection of the FIVARS Festival of International Virtual and Augmented Reality Stories in Toronto, September 15-17 at the House of VR. FIVARS focuses on curating the best immersive story-driven content from around the world with the aim of exploring and nurturing this platform for new narrative forms. This year, FIVARS received 250 entries for its festival. Established in 2015, it was the first independent festival of its kind and openly challenges content creators to showcase and develop ideas that defy and transcend the status quo, with bonus points for exhibiting a unique mechanic.

Necropolis-ENVIRONMENT_STILLS_GEN2B_TheaterStillaAnderson_LR_LongCrop copy

City of Ghosts is an interactive, mobile Augmented Reality cinematic experience directed by Olivier Asselin that allows users ̶to interact freely in real space with life-sized, motion-captured 3D virtual characters using nothing more than a smart phone, tablet or AR glasses, all within a 20×20 foot area or even across several real world locations.

In City of Ghosts, participants begin at the beginning of the 20th century in the middle of a criminal investigation. Their spectroscope (mobile device) helps them solve the mystery and the circumstances around the death of La Stilla, one of the most famous sopranos of the Belle Époque.

The spectroscope is a ‘magical device’ that will give visitors special powers and help them be an active participant in City of Ghosts – a story of love, death, ghosts and technology. When sufficiently “magnetized”, their spectroscope allows them to see haunted places, ghosts and the aura of objects, to resuscitate the past, interact within scenes, unlock hidden auras and see things that nobody else can see. During the experience, players of all ages are invited to discover your city and explore different real venues such as theaters, museums, historical and cultural locations and other places of interest.

At FIVARS, participants will have the opportunity to interact with the film and meet City of Ghosts director Olivier Asselin.

Get tickets for FIVARS now – running September 15-17th at the House of VR in Toronto, Canada.