Rose Colored review: an original dystopian VR movie about AR future

After having read Road To VR article about Rose Colored I got curious and decided to give it a look: the definition of “Impactful Sci-Fi Morality Tale in the Vein of ‘Black Mirror’” was too tempting to ignore it.

What is Rose Colored? Well, it is a short movie about our technological future by Adam Cosco that you can watch on Vimeo, Facebook and Samsung VR. I watched it through Vimeo: if you use a mobile headset, watching it is really easy, since Vimeo is ready to support WebVR on these platforms: just look at this official guide and have a try. If instead you, like me, want to watch it on a high-end tethered headset (like Oculus Rift)… well, good luck. Even using WebVR enabled browsers has been useless: I had to download the movie and then watch it through DeoVR.

Adam Cosco Rose Colored VR movie review
Adam Cosco, director of this original 360 movie (Image by Adam Cosco)

The movie is a VR movie… oh well, actually it is just a 360-video: from the article about Youtube VR180 you should now that I don’t like that much that format, since not having the depth cues makes the experience less immersive, it isn’t like really being there. And unluckily this is not a VR360 video like Jaunt ones.

Its duration is around 20 minutes and in this times it narrates the story of a girl and her problems with her boyfriend, in a far away future where AR has completely taken control of our lives. Actually there’s not that much about the problems they’re having… it is more like she has some suspects about their relationship and want to know the real truth about it. In these 20 minutes she thinks about their relationship and investigates on how much technology has changed her perception of life. I don’t want to spoil you more, since I want you to watch the movie.

But I want to share you some impressions about it. First of all, I don’t like the fact that directors are creating a lot of dystopian movies about AR. Apart from advertisements and fluff videos from AR headsets producers, where AR is predicted as a wonderful technology that will make our life become a heaven, it seems that everyone is forecasting only disasters by the use of tech. This is another video of that genre that I saw months ago

I am scared too by the fact that we’ll be always connected, that social network companies will follow us in every moment of our day and could theoretically record everything of our lives; but this doesn’t necessarily mean that in the future we have to live in a terrible world. And let’s be honest: with smartphone it is almost already this way… when I go on the bus each day, I see almost everyone spending his/her time by looking at that damn little screen in front of their eyes… and sometimes I’m this way too. At least AR will let us have our hands free :).
Let’s also think about the good sides of this technology: it could save a life letting a surgeon see in front of his eyes the stream of another surgeon from the other part of the world helping him in making a difficult surgery; it could make an elderly relative to see us next to him in his house and make him happier; and so on. It’s ok to warn about the risks… but if all the movies are about risks, well, this is not positive for trust that people has to gain in this technology.

Anyway, the movie wants to warn us about two risks of this tech:

  1. We will detach ourselves from reality, making us unable to distinguish what is real from what is not. If AR is able to modify everything we perceive of the world, it de-facto creates another reality, that is different from VR just because it is based on a real existing environment. Everything will never be real anymore… and everyone could also see his peculiar reality, because everyone could have different augmentations for different places. So, what is real anymore? What is virtual? What is the truth? It’s hard to tell;
  2. We’ll be always connected and dependent to big companies services: I’m talking about social media like Facebook and search engines like Google. “Google knows me better than my mother” is a sentence that I’ve read on the web and that I always tell to everyone. And what will happen when Google will be always reading and analyzing what I’m doing? I’ll have no secret for it. It’s pretty scary. Privacy in AR is an issue that has to be solved before this technology becomes mainstream;
  3. I know, I’ve said this would be a list of two, but this third point is a mix of the above two: what can happen when Google, that knows me better that anyone else, decides to alter my reality? It could understand my personality and then modify my reality to make it more appealing for my tastes… and to sell more with advertisements. Super-scary. In this movie, the virtual assistant of the girl is the impersonator of these risks.

    Rose Colored AR VR movie review
    The girl and her virtual assistant watch a virtual screen in front of them. She can see all these virtual elements thanks to her AR contact lenses. The virtual assistant is… well, not someone you love during the movie

My answer is that Adam Cosco is exactly right about this issues, but I’ve still hope that our future won’t be that terrible. I’ve still hope in humanity.

The movie has two very interesting characteristics that I want to highlight.

Rose Colored AR VR movie review
The make-up scene: she’s choosing the make up of the day using an AR mirror and some AR make-up effects. This is one of the most interesting scenes from a technological standpoint

The first one is the technology depicted: it is not really augmented reality (a la Hololens), it is something more like a Mixed Reality. I mean, the reality is not only enhanced, it is completely reshaped. If a beautiful girl is passing by, I can modify my reality to see her stopping by me and talking with me, while instead in “reality” she just went away. This is an incredible mixture of augmented reality (since I’m bond with a physical place) and virtual reality (since de facto I’m completely re-writing my reality, I’m not just adding objects). Technically this reality is impossible at the moment, but in the far future, if the glasses will be completely able to reconstruct every kind of environments and people due to some smart modeling, this could be possible. Very interesting, because it’s a tech I’ve never though about before… it’s a complete seamless mix of virtual and real. In this movie, everyone wears special contact glasses through which sees this mixed reality world. Every person has its own digital identity, so for instance at a certain point the main character decides that she wants red hair and magically from that moment on everyone sees her as having red hair. I expect the far future to be something similar.

Rose Colored AR VR movie review
The main character has just painted her hair with the red color. Actually she’s still brown, but her digital identity has red hair

The second one are the filmography techniques: this is the first 360 movie that I’ve ever seen that truly uses framing: the camera is put in different places, it moves, it often changes frames. It requires the user to continuously turn the head to follow the action. It is not a standard POV movie, it is like a traditional movie, but with 360 cameras. Point of view from the eyes of the characters is only used when the director wants us to identify ourselves with the character, to see the world from her eyes. Result is very interesting, since it is clear that the director has experimented a lot with this new technology and tried to exploit it at its best. Result is good, since the framing has been able to convey me feelings, as it is supposed to be. I think the these experiments have been great, but there’s still a lot to do: camera movements lead me to have motion sickness and also neck strain. Anyway, I think that this is the true innovation of this movie and the reason why everyone should look at it.

Rose Colored AR VR movie review
Here you can notice the originality in the framing of this movie: while all VR movies put you in the center of the action, this one can even put you far distant, if this is useful for conveying the right feelings

When the movie ended, I asked myself: “Has VR added that much to this movie?”. The answer has surprisingly been “no”. Of course VR makes every movie more immersive, makes you absorb more the emotions of the experiences; and of course looking a video expressing critics to AR/VR while wearing a VR headset is ironical. But I didn’t feel any bond with the character, I’ve not been moved like in Dear Angelica and I wasn’t shocked as with The Price of Freedom. This is where in my opinion the movie has failed: it didn’t foster great emotions in me. Maybe it is because there’s not a first-person view… but also Dear Angelica doesn’t have it. It made me think, this is true, it made me think about technology and our future (it was the main goal of this movie), but did not gave me feelings.

The movie has instead left in me the impression that I had watched a well-crafted movie, with a lot of originality in the way it is shot and in the technology proposed. Adam Cosco’s vision of the future of AR/VR is really interesting. And I think it is worth a look, so if you have 20 minutes to spend to watch a good movie, have a look at it.

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Skarredghost

AR/VR developer, startupper, zombie killer. Sometimes I pretend I can blog, but actually I’ve no idea what I’m doing.

I tried to change the world with my startup Immotionar, offering super-awesome full body virtual reality, but now the dream is over. But I’ve still not waken up…