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SDCC 2017: FX’s ‘Sessions: The ‘Legion’ Mixed Reality Experience Was My First Awesome Taste Of AR

Friday 21st July 2017 by Derek Kraneveldt

Anyone who’s familiar with me (or has listened to Geekscape Games) knows that I’m a big proponent of VR. I’ve spent the duration of the last few San Diego Comic-Con’s seeking all sorts of different virtual reality experiences, from the American Horror StoryResident Evil VII, or Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul’ experiences last year (the last link includes a video basically featuring Shane peeing his pants), to The Walking Dead, The Strain, VR Adult Films (for science), and more in years prior.

I was certainly excited to check out more virtual reality at this year’s SDCC, including Archangel, the first release from Skydance Interactive (look out for a piece about this experience later).

FX kept the ‘Mixed Reality’ experience pretty mysterious up until the point that you enter it. The press release gave essentially no info, noting only “Are you prepared to discover the deep power that exists within you? Experience the world of Legion in mixed reality, and see the universe in a whole new light.” Even the employees outside of the experience, when asked, wouldn’t tell you anything about what was in store for you.

No cameras or recording equipment were allowed inside the event, so if you’re interested to see what happened, you’ll have to read on.

Spoilers follow. You’ve been warned.

The outside of the building simply features a classy Legion logo overlaid on top of some vines, while the Mutant Gene Testing for Fox’s next upcoming X-universe series, The Gifted, continually has alarms going off just metres away. A staff member will measure your Pupillary Distance before you approach the event, which I found pretty interesting as I’ve never actually seen this happen outside of a glasses store. Once you get through the lineup, a staff member in a lab coat will bring you into a white hallway with a series of old-looking televisions and a bunch of other convention goers who are currently going through the same ‘testing’ as you are. The actress that was taking me through the experience was very serious, and said things like “Do you remember being here?”, “Do you know who you are?” and “I’m here to help you.” I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to give short answers or freak out like the real David might, so I stuck with the former.

The actress sat me down while another lab coat-donning employee brought me a headset to “help with the testing”. I didn’t realize it until later, but this would be my first experience with Microsoft’s Hololens, which was surprisingly lightweight and comfortable, and produced deep sound that felt as though I was wearing earbuds, without actually putting anything in (or all that near) my ears.

The device took me through a sort of calibration process, which had me looking at a series of triangles to start (which I imagine had something to do with calibrating my field of view), and then lifting my hand, making an “L” gesture, pinching a piece of a floating brain, and dragging it to another location. When I first saw the floating, spinning brain, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, as it simply felt like magic. The Hololens that you wear is almost like wearing some lightly shaded sunglasses (everything has just a little bit of a darker tint to it), and beyond that, this brain was just floating in front of me before I pinched in with my fingers and, again like magic, moved it somewhere else. This, naturally, felt completely different than my previous VR experiences, in which the idea is typically to put you into the place of another person, in another world. Here, I was seeing all of the same things that I was seeing before donning the headset, and all of a sudden there were things that I could interact with floating in front of me. I couldn’t help but mutter “holy shit” under my breath, and this was just the beginning.

Another actor came out of a room in front of me in order to collect me for a sort of “interview”. I sat down, and in the room the Hololens was adding things like a Newton’ cradle, a stapler, and three face-down cards in front of me, a lamp on a bookcase behind me, a clock on one of the side walls, and a few more things that I can no longer recall. As I moved my head and shifted my body, my perspective on these items changed just as they would in real life. I really don’t know much about the Hololens or how it tracks positions, but I was really impressed here.

I sat down, and all of a sudden could hear voices all around me. I then hear Lenny from the series, who told me to focus on her voice, and told me how I could turn the other voices down (this involved making the motion of twisting an invisible volume knob in front of you. The actor in front of me then began asking me to perform tasks as a mean to learn more about my powers. I started with levitating an item on the table, before stopping the Newton’s cradle by holding my hand out in front of me, and eventually teleporting a lamp from the back wall onto the desk in front of me. These tasks all looked cool, but could be a little confusing as the gestures needed to perform each seemed to vary without explanation. At times I wasn’t sure if I was doing the wrong thing, or if I was doing the right thing and ‘using that power’ was actually just taking awhile. 

The interviewer then asked me to tell him what was on the three cards on the desk. I levitated the cards, when Lenny’s voice was again in my ear, stating that she had taken over the body of the interviewer, and letting me know that these people were not trying to help me, and to go along with what was happening while she figured out how to get me out of there. I “used my powers” to see through the cards and see the symbol on the other side (pieces of the event were also voice activated, so you’d move onto the next card once you said the shape), and read them out loud. 

Lenny (as the interviewer) then asks me to describe what I see in the frames on the wall. The wall art is a series of Rorschach blots, which begin to change and morph when I describe them.

I’m then told to follow her lead (again, this is all in my head, as to not alert the other person in the room), as on the count of three she’s going to get up to guide me out of the office. The interviewer stands up, comes around the table towards me, and it seems like I’m supposed to get up and follow them when all of a sudden I hear something along the lines of “They know!” or “They’re onto us!” and I’m pulled into the corner opposite the door. The other person in the room (the actress that initially took me through the calibration process was now wearing a giant, creepy paper-mâché looking mask and was headed towards me with her arms outstretched. Just as she’s about to reach me, we push through the wall (a secret door) and I’m found in another white room with more lab coat-wearing individuals to help me wrap up.

This is the experience. They help me take off the Hololens and ask me if I had fun (I did). You also have the ability to take a selfie while still wearing the headset to memorialize your (likely) first mixed-reality experience.

Aside from the sometimes clunky interactions with the objects in front of me, I was so freaking impressed by this experience. It reminded me of the first few times I tried (and was blown away by) Virtual Reality, and obviously AR opens up another world of different events, experiences, games, and things that you can do. I can’t wait to see the technology expand (and I imagine that next SDCC there’ll be a myriad of different AR experiences)

Sessions: The Legion Mixed Reality Experience will be open at the FXHibition at the Hilton Bayfront Park through Sunday. The standby line is long, but the experience itself is cool as hell.