The Television Academy has announced the nominees for the 2017 Emmy Awards. Among the big names we all expected to see (Stranger Things, The Handmaid’s Tale, Atlanta) there were also some nominees of a very different ilk…

No fewer than six virtual reality experiences have found themselves in the running this year, with the nominees split between two specific categories. Three are vying for the Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media Within a Program award, whilst the other three are nominees within the Outstanding Interactive Program award category.

All three of the experiences in the Outstanding Interactive Program category were backed by Oculus VR. These were:

  • Dear Angelica, an emotionally and visually stirring short story created entirely by hand in virtual reality, by Oculus Story Studio, and starring Geena Davis and Mae Whitman.
  • Mission: ISS, an interactive simulation in which players can experience life aboard the International Space Station. Using the Oculus Touch controllers, players on the Rift can dock a space capsule and take a space walk.
  • The People’s House – Inside the White House with Barack and Michelle Obama, an historic tour of the White House with former POTUS and FLOTUS, Barack and Michelle Obama. A tradition dating back to the Kennedys, Presidents and First Ladies showing us around the White House has now taken on a whole new dimension. The experience is on both the Rift and Gear, as well as via Facebook.

As for the  Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media Within a Program category, we see some household names given the VR treatment:

This isn’t the first year that virtual reality experiences have made an appearance at the Emmys. The 2016 Emmy for Outstanding Original Interactive Program went to Oculus’ animated VR narrative, Henry. Like this year’s nomination, Dear Angelica, Henry was also borne out of Oculus Story Studios.

With Oculus dominating three whole nominations in one category, as well as taking home the gong last year, it’s no surprise to hear that Oculus is investing heavily in VR-based narratives. A full $50 million of their total VR content investment commitment is earmarked exclusively for experiential VR content beyond the realms of gaming.

We are still at a stage where the public is being beckoned towards virtual reality, with mass uptake still not quite teetering on the brink in the consumer space. However, such high profile representation such as these nominations demonstrates the promising future that lays ahead for the medium. Clearly, there is huge potential for virtual reality for narrative storytelling, with creative, sometimes mind-blowing, examples of how the technology can be used are emerging on a weekly basis.

The ability to move seamlessly between active and passive experiences shows quite how versatile the virtual reality medium is for entertainment. The way people are engaging with VR at the moment ranges from screen-based 360 video to fully-immersive experiences within a headset, with much going on in between. This is not to mention what could be achieved when augmented reality also takes off.

Immersion, in one form or another, has always been central to the business of good storytelling. With VR, that concept is now being taken quite literally.