Stand-up meets virtual reality with the Brooklyn Comedy Collective

·1-min read
The videoconferencing service Bramble splits the screen between the virtual venue and the webcam, so users can see and chat to the avatars they encounter.

New York's Brooklyn Comedy Collective held a recent event via the videoconferencing service Bramble -- a foray into the world of virtual reality shows that could offer an interesting alternative in pandemic times, with theaters and venues closed and amid token Zoom shows.

The show must go on for the performing arts, even in times of covid-19. In response, a New York comedy club called The Brooklyn Comedy Collective (BCC) turned to the Bramble platform to host a show Friday, March 5, 2021. A livestream show... in virtual reality.

The videoconferencing service lets users control an avatar in a virtual world, in which they can mingle and meet other users. And there's a lot of similarities with a real-world experience. When users meet, cameras go on and conversations start in the virtual audience.

New York Times journalist Jason Zinoman took part in the BCC's event. After strolling around the virtual theater with his blue swan avatar, and watching the show presented by Meaghan Strickland, the critic welcomed the initiative, especially after a year of theater closures: "Whether it's the future of comedy is unclear, but it definitely felt like an attempt to fill a desperate need of the present," he wrote.

In the future, live performing arts shows could branch out even further thanks to virtual reality, since the perception of the senses is apparently more or less the same in the virtual world as in the real world. "We realize that in virtual reality, the norms of proxemics that apply in the real world are also maintained in the virtual world," explains Anne-Hélène Olivier, associate professor in biomechanics at France's Université de Rennes 2, in the Le Journal de la Guebla podcast.

Louis Bolla