Emergence was originally launched in 2019, during Sundance Film Festival, but has just been re-released via Steam as a free-to-download virtual reality experience for anyone that owns an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or Valve Index headset.
Players assume the role of a glowing person, hemmed in by thousands of other people all reacting to their movements. The virtual figures are designed to mimic real-world behaviour, meaning Emergence is as realistic an experience of a crowd as most of us are likely to get at the moment.
“Our work often depicts abstracted human forms and movements, using a single figure or a duet,” says Universal Everything founder Matt Pyke. “With today’s graphics technology we can expand into choreographing an entire crowd.
“By programming each crowd member with intelligent behaviours – such as avoidance, following or mimicry – we can reveal elaborate patterns of human behaviour at a huge scale.”
The game is accompanied by a soundscape designed by Simon Pyke, which uses layers of vocals sampled from remote field recordings of tribes.
Together with the hordes of digital people, it makes for a surreal experience and an intriguing look at where virtual reality can take us – particularly considering the current ongoing social distancing we are all facing in our real lives.