A virtual journey through grief

The Portland Virtual Reality Meetup will hold their monthly meeting at the eBay community lounge on May 20 at 6:30 p.m.

Kent Bye, host of the Voices of VR podcast and co-founder of Portland Virtual Reality Meetup, said anyone who is interested in VR should come to the no-cost meeting. It’s a great way for people to network in the VR community and to begin developing their own VR projects.

“The thing about virtual reality is that you really need to see it to believe it,” Bye said. “Just as books can capture information and knowledge, virtual reality captures experiences that can be communicated directly into our subconscious mind through our perceptions. It actually tricks us into believing we are in another world.”

Part of the meeting will focus on presenting a new VR, created by Bye, Crossover: A Multi-Threaded Immersive Theater Experience.

After putting a set of gadgets over your head and eyes—like a helmet and goggles would feel—you are suddenly immersed in a whole new, virtual world. You can look up, down, around and behind you, seeing a different scene than what is actually in front of you.

Although VRs can have unlimited purposes, Crossover is directed at those coping with loss. In about 10 minutes you can follow five characters, four of whom are ghosts, into three different rooms.
Each room has its own grief theme: the loss of relationships, the loss of parents and the loss of children. You have the choice of staying in one room or you can follow the characters from scene to scene. Each character is their own person with their own story.

The final scene is a grief ritual in which each ghost deals with unresolved emotions before they are able to cross over to the other side. You sit in a circle with the other characters and listen as they talk to their loved ones, finding peace and solace before they cross over. The touching process is an amazing resource to those coping with loss.

Bye originally made this virtual reality for himself as part of his own deep and sacred healing process.

“My wife took her life about six months ago, and I have been going through the grieving process,” Bye explained. “I would say that there aren’t a lot of great resources for what I wanted in terms of a grief ritual, which was a cathartic emotional release. So I wrote this story based upon the conversations I wish I could have had.”

One of the ghosts is meant to be Kent’s wife, Jennifer. Kent was able to look through Jennifer’s journals and take her own words to make the script for Crossover.

“It was surreal to write those conversations.” Bye said. “It’s a very interesting process to make art out of something like that. Not in an exploitative way, but more to honor the wisdom that she had to share.”

Kent decided to submit Crossover to a VR competition: Oculus’ Mobile VR Jam.

“It’s a weird mix of personal and professional life,” Bye said. “But the process of creating art out of our lives helps to tell us who we are. It’s a process of making meaning.”

Each person has their own choice of making meaning out of every situation in their lives; VR gives the opportunity to help make that possible. VR also offers you the potential and freedom to represent who you feel you truly are.

“My hope would be that it is a blank enough slate for people to project their own experiences of loss of relationships, loss of parents or loss of children,” Bye said.

“VR is going to change the way we exist. It has the potential to make us more human and allow us to be connected more to who we are.”