Cannes Lions

ASCEND THE WALL

RELEVENT, New York / HBO / 2015

Case Film
Case Film

Overview

Entries

Credits

Overview

Execution

Ascend the Wall represents the harnessing of an existing technology to create a novel and powerful form of communication. While the virtual reality journey was the core of the experience, we built layers of immersion on top of it. The result is a brand experience that feels more like a memory than like a piece of media.

Consumers step into a physical recreation of the Castle Black winch elevator. They put on a DK1 headset and are transported into a virtual version of that elevator, which then begins to virtually ascend. As it does, industrial centrifugal blowers built into the physical elevator blow cold air onto the user from above and in front. Similarly, a low frequency tactile transducer positioned under their feet creates the sensation of a rickety elevator creaking upwards.

Both of these “4D” elements are controlled by a custom show control system that uses OpenFrameworks to connect the virtual environment running in the Unity gaming engine with industrial programmable logic controllers that operate the fans and transducer.

Though the idea of a little wind and rumble may sound like a carnival trick, the results are startling. The experience essentially creates false sensory inputs for 3 of the 5 major senses (sight, sound and touch). The brain is fooled into thinking it is actually experiencing a journey up a 700-foot high ice wall.

The proof of the depth of “presence” is in the reactions of consumers, who routinely back away from the “edge,” scream in fear and grasping on to the railings for safety.

This fusion of virtual and physical creates the opportunity to experience fictional stories as if they happened to you like any other experience in your “real” life. The implications of this innovation for culture and communication are significant and wide-ranging.

Outcome

Ascend the Wall has been touring the world continuously since its launch in March 2014. It has been to more than 20 cities on 4 continents and has been experienced by more than 300,000 people (we believe a record for any VR experience). For the vast majority of consumers who try Ascend the Wall, it is the first virtual reality experience of their lives.

The experience has been covered by a vast quantity of mainstream press and is a fixture at Game of Thrones premiers and other marquis events. It has generated 300 million social impressions and over 1.5 billion media impressions to date.

Since its launch, dozens of other entertainment properties have created virtual reality experiences inspired by Ascend the Wall to help market their shows and movies. Perhaps more importantly, the use of VR to tell stories is now shifting from marketing to product, with major content creators – including HBO and most large studios - developing virtual reality experiences as standalone content or complements to traditional programming. We are proud to say that we broke that ground.

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