You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Penrose Studios’ ‘Rosebud’ Is A Breakthrough for Mobile Virtual Reality

From Sundance to your phone, San Francisco-based virtual reality storytelling startup Penrose Studios is set to make waves.

Penrose Studios, which was founded by former Oculus executive Eugene Chung, announced Thursday that it’s animated VR short film “The Rose and I” is going to premier at Sundance next year, where it will be shown as part of the New Frontier section. And if that wasn’t enough, Penrose also released a mobile version of the film, dubbed “Rosebud,” on Samsung’s Gear VR headset Thursday — and it may just change how you think about mobile virtual reality.

Up until now, mobile VR largely consisted of two things: Video games that offer some level of immersion, and 360-degree videos that let viewers experience concerts, documentaries and more from a set point of view, with the action unfolding around them. What’s largely been missing is the ability to physically move through a virtual space. That’s because mobile VR doesn’t offer positional tracking, which means that the app wouldn’t know if a viewer stood up and walked around.

More advanced VR headsets like the upcoming Oculus Rift, and the HTC Vive, do offer this kind of positional tracking by adding special sensors to a room, capable of tracking the user’s movements within a certain area. That’s not easily doable with mobile VR, but the Penrose team found a remarkable solution to bring a similar experience to the Gear VR.

“Rosebud” as well as “The Rose and I” are essentially virtual reality adaptations of “The Little Prince,” allowing users to observe the bond between a rose and its caretaker on a small asteroid floating through space. When watching “The Rose and I” with a full-fledged VR headset with positional tracking, viewers can walk around the asteroid and explore it from all angles.

For “Rosebud,” the team replaced positional tracking by giving users the ability to manipulate the asteroid with the Gear VR’s touchpad, allowing them to zoom in and out as well rotate the object in a 360-degree fashion around the position of the viewer. It’s an experience that breaks the wall between viewer and participant, giving an immediate sense of presence in a room, and letting viewers forget for a second that they’re just wearing a phone strapped to their face.

Chung told Variety that his team, which includes veterans from Oculus, Pixar and Dreamworks, had to work quite a bit to make this experience feel fluid on mobile. Not only had they to overcome the lack of real positional tracking, but also deal with the fact that a modern PC used to power an Oculus Rift hs 150 times the computing power of a phone-based Gear VR. The solution involved a lot of technical tricks, but also leaving a lot of things out altogether. “The simpler you get, the better,” Chung said.

Before starting Penrose, Chung served as head of film and media at Oculus, where he also co-created the Oculus Story Studio. Penrose released “Rosebud” through a dedicated app called “Rose” on the Gear VR’s Oculus store Thursday, and the company plans to release additional content through the app in the coming months.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • The Simpsons

    Disney Plus Will Make 'The Simpsons' Available in Original Uncropped Format in Early 2020

    Eep! After an outcry from “The Simpsons” aficionados, Disney has decided to offer classic episodes of the iconic animated sitcom on Disney Plus in their original 4-by-3 aspect ratio early next year. The streaming service launched Nov. 12 in the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands with the full batch of “Simpsons” episodes in 16-by-9 HD [...]

  • Verizon Stream TV

    Stream TV Review: Verizon’s New Streaming Device Is One Odd Duck

    Verizon has an answer to Roku, but it’s not talking much about it: The mobile carrier quietly released a new streaming device this week that promises to bring services like HBO, Hulu and YouTube to your TV. Dubbed Stream TV, the device is a solid streamer based on Google’s Android TV platform, albeit with a [...]

  • Hulu With Live TV Full Channel

    Hulu Hiking Price of Live TV Service 22%, to $55 per Month

    Hulu is implementing its second price increase in less than a year for its Hulu With Live TV product — with the base package of 60-plus live channels increasing 22%, to $54.99 per month. The price hike on the monthly base price of Hulu With Live TV will go into effect Dec. 18 for all [...]

  • Hulu With Live TV

    Hulu Live TV Tops Sling TV as No. 1 Streaming Pay-TV Service, Analysts Estimate

    Hulu With Live TV has edged out Dish Network’s Sling TV to take the crown as the biggest virtual pay-television service in the U.S., according to new analyst estimates. They were among the only winners amid the cord-cutting carnage that slashed through the sector in the third quarter. As of the end of the third [...]

  • Mubi India

    Mubi Launches Two VoD Channels in India

    Film specialist streaming platform Mubi launched on Friday in India with two channels, Mubi India and Mubi World. The channels are available together for an introductory offer of INR 199 ($2.75) for three months. Thereafter the channels will cost INR 499 ($7) a month or INR 4788 ($66.75) annually. For Mubi India, a channel dedicated [...]

  • U.K. Producer Barcroft Studios Sold to

    U.K.-Based Producer Barcroft Studios Sold to Future in $30 Million Deal

    Barcroft Studios has been bought by Future in a £23.5 million ($30.1 million) deal. The U.K.-based production outfit specializes in factual fare for channels and platforms, and its own branded channels on the likes of YouTube. Future is a U.K.-listed print and online publishing and events business. Sam Barcroft will stay on as CEO at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content