GE Teams With Virtual Reality Creator Chris Milk on New Series

  • ‘The Possible’ pushes the medium closer to TV than the movies
  • Documentary series will focus on scientific discoveries

General Electric Co. is teaming up with virtual reality creator Chris Milk and his company for a series on scientific discoveries that pushes the medium closer to television than film.

“The Possible” is a five-part documentary series that attempts bring the viewer into places inaccessible to the public, to discover how scientists and inventors developed breakthroughs. It will debut later this year through the app from Within, the company co-founded by Milk.

“Everything feels very one-off in virtual reality,” Milk said in an interview. “We want to give people a reason not just to watch something cool but watch something cool and then come back. It’s a simple concept that we are very used to in television but not one that we have really fully explored in virtual reality.”

The project is one of the first attempts at serialized virtual reality content and one of the most expensive, according to those involved. Boston-based GE is one of a growing number of companies, including Hollywood studios and exhibitors, that is employing the medium to reach younger audiences. Virtual reality, which some analysts have estimated may overtake TV, has been used by newspapers and theme parks, though its adoption by a mass of consumers is still far off.

Shorter Stories

The need for high-price headsets, which can make some nauseous, and other physical limitations of the medium “makes it such that you don’t want to stay in it for long, long periods of time and so we have been telling these shorter stories under 15 minutes,” Milk said. “This allows us to establish a storytelling model, have people come back when new episodes come out, to continue the journey with the series.”

The team didn’t disclose the locations or companies featured in “The Possible” series. David Gelb, known for the critically acclaimed “The Chef’s Table” and “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” is directing alongside producer June Cohen, former head of media at TED. Emmy-nominated VR production company Here Be Dragons is also involved.

The project has several partners including GE, which largely funded the series and is creating a companion VR film on science and human ingenuity to follow each episode. The Within app works on all headsets.

Milk’s Backers

Within, formerly known as Vrse, raised $12.6 million from sources including Andreessen Horowitz and 21st Century Fox in June. Fox is one of several studios creating VR content linked to its films, and exhibitors like IMAX Corp. are creating VR experiences as the number of theatergoers falls.

GE has been experimenting with virtual reality for several years, according to chief marketing officer Linda Boff. The company has created original VR content on topics such as neuroscience. GE is seeking new ways to appeal to a younger generation of engineers, including using podcasts, web videos and social media posts on Instagram and Vine.

“It is a bet on the future of where media is going,” Boff said. “It is a way for us to, frankly, grow where we think audiences are increasingly going to be spending their time.”

— With assistance by Rick Clough

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