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Alice in Wonderland (and VR)

Alice in Wonderland and virtual reality

I visited London’s Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum to see Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, an exhibition on the works and impact of the titular book. Visitors tumble through the rabbit hole of Lewis Carrol’s works, from the petite drawings of a scramble of animals passing judgement, to an eclectic array of cutlery and crockery laid on dimension-bending tables. What particularly struck me was the impact of the work across culture and art movements; for example, did you know Salvador Dali illustrated Alice in Wonderland as well? Or that early 1900s America was obsessed with the story? The little nuggets of information recontextualised the story away from the Disney film, and showed me its wider influence in ways I had no idea previously.

Yet while the exhibition was excellent, it wasn’t the only reason why I was there. HTC VIVE Arts supported it with an experience created by PRELOADED, where visitors can fit into the dainty shoes of Alice. The player falls into Wonderland, drinks a shrinking potion, then meanders their way into a rose garden where they play croquet with playing cards. The colours and smooth animations painted a picturebook aesthetic, combined with a fun game at the end. Staff attended the installation perfectly, using face covers and regularly cleaning the equipment to ensure that VR headsets were good for repeated use.

It was a simple four-minute experience that paired well with the surrounding exhibition, but held back by hand-tracking glitches and a thirty-minute queue time. For veterans of VR, I would have suggested skipping it to focus on the works of art; waiting a long time in a queue for a bite-sized experience left me thinking that the time could have been used elsewhere. And while the experience itself was good, the glitches that caused my hands to scatter across the screen delayed gratification further.

But taking it for what it is, the experience works really well to complement the immersion of the visit. Most people who try it out would be seeing high-fidelity VR for the first time, and it provides a nice introduction for the interested general visitor.

Disclaimer: HTC supplied two press tickets to attend the event .