'Henry' is Oculus' first, emotional step to making AI characters
If you've ever spent time in the company of young children watching colorful and cartoony TV shows geared to their innocence -- say something on Sprout or Nick Jr. -- then you'll know what it is to live in the world of Henry. The computer-animated virtual reality short about a lonely hedgehog is only the second to come from Oculus VR's newly founded Story Studio, an innovation lab of sorts for VR. But whereas most recent gaming- and entertainment-focused VR works have relied on cheap thrills, suspense and fear to dazzle viewers, Henry instead engages with empathy.
"That was the big question for me: How are people going to connect with him?" says director Ramiro Lopez Dau of Henry's emotional bent. "So we came up with this character who has an obvious problem: He wants to hug people and he's super spiky. So that was the connection because everyone deserves a friend. And Henry doesn't have a flaw. He's just like that; he's a hedgehog. ... So it's more about, okay, there's some meaning here. You will find someone who will accept you for who you are, which is a very universal message. ... There's going to be a very strong point to feel empathy for this guy."
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