s technology advances, so does the art of storytelling. People become immersed in worlds outside our realm of possibilities through the virtual and augmented reality experiences. Cinequest Film and Creativity Festival offers a chance to have one of these experiences as part of their VR/AR programming.

May Yam, founder and CEO of May Yam Studios, LLC (or MYStudios)  and the film and VR/AR department manager for Cinequest, is bridging the wonders of storytelling and the experience of living them first-hand. In the months leading up to Cinequest, Yam and her team went through the festival submissions and created a program ready for participants to interact with.  

“One of the amazing things about virtual reality is how immersive it really is, you get so engrossed in the storytelling.”

_May Yam

For the last three years, MYStudios  has partnered with Cinequest to streamline that process and take virtual reality and augmented reality to the next level.

“VR enables you to escape to worlds previously unimaginable, to connect with an immersive piece to learn new experiences andhave fun,” Yam says.

This year, guests can expect an assortment of experiences in virtual reality, augmented reality, and hyper-reality. The Cinequest VR experience heightens these concepts by enabling guests to interact in a whole new world and with characters through active participation. This is made possible through  headsets which display 3D 360 views of the environment and motion controllers which bring arms and hands into the experience allowing for interactivity, including  picking up objects.

Discovering new worlds and journeying through exciting missions is what you’ll find in the hyper-reality hub events in the coming days. One to look out for, Yam says, is Dino Mundi XR. In this virtual reality game, players are transported to an ancient planet ruled by dinosaurs. This 30 foot by 20 foot installation gives users the freedom to roam around the 3D play area as they explore three different dinosaur worlds inside their headsets.  

For those who might not want to be chased around by a Tyrannosaurus rex, they can indulge in a little childhood fun. We Bare Bears: Food Truck Rush, a multi-player game, and one of Yam’s favorite hyper-reality experiences offered at this year’s Cinequest, puts players in the middle of a hectic lunch rush. Players must work alongside the characters from the Cartoon Network TV show We Bare Bears to cook and serve food to customers before time runs out. 

“It’s crazy multitasking fun racing against the clock to  make the drinks,  burgers and  fries, which have a tendency to spontaneously catch fire, all while the customer line grows longer. It’s pretty chaotic but it’s one of my favorites,” Yam says

Virtual reality plays a bigger role than just entertainment, Yam assures. Outside the bounds of fun or exciting games are portrayals of real experiences that run deep for many people. The VR Cinema Program immerses the audience in engaging 360 videos. One of Yam’s favorites in this genre is the short film Daughters of Chibok. The 11-minute Nigerian documentary tells the real-life story of the 276 teenage girls who were kidnapped in their dormitories in 2014. The virtual reality documentary follows the aftermath of the kidnapping and shares the stories of survivors and mothers whose daughters were kidnapped.  

“It’s heartbreaking,” Yam says. “One of the amazing things about virtual reality is how immersive it really is, you get so engrossed in the storytelling because you are in the story.”

Virtual and augmented reality serves a portal through which people can bear witness to different stories–they become part of the journey themselves. Yam believes everyone should have the opportunity to experience the wonders of virtual and augmented reality, she says Cinequest presents  a fun, safe and easy opportunity to do so.

“Not only has the technology advanced, but the storytelling has also advanced,” Yam says.

The virtual and augmented reality programs will run from March 5-8 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and will be held at the California Theatre and KALEID Gallery.

Details of Cinequest VR & AR programing

Website: mystudios

Facebook: MayYamStudios