I admit, I havenā€™t seen this video using any sort of VR rig, which was the intent. But even in a simple two-dimensional video format, the simple, wordless tale of a man, his daughter, and their car manages to get you right in your feels-gland, and makes you remember what an important part of our lives our cars are.

The video is called Pearl, and itā€™s part of Googleā€™s experimental Spotlight Stories project. This one is directed by Patrick Osborne, who you may know from the charming dog-and-food-focused Pixar short called Feast.

Pearl has a similar sort of visual style and understated, almost voyeuristic approach to interacting with the characters and seeing their lives in the in-between moments of living. Itā€™s quiet and powerful in a way that sneaks up on you.

The short was designed to be watched with some sort of VR gear, which would give you a full 360Ā° view of everything. This sort of experience can sometimes be jarring and difficult, which is why the interior of a car was chosen. As the director explains in this Fast Company article,

Osborneā€™s solution was the carā€”a perfect setting for many of the design challenges of VR. Think about it. You sit in a car, just like you might sit with a VR headset on, so the sensation makes more sense to your body than pretending you have wings and floating you around an environment. Additionally, the car can be a conceptual anchor to changes in time and place. So the inside stays familiar, but the weather or environment out the window can change without it being jarring.

ā€œWhatā€™s weird about VR, in our earlier stories, is youā€™d get this disembodied-head experience,ā€ says producer David Eisenmann, alluding to animations that exist in a sort of setting-less ether. ā€œSo one of the nice things about the car is itā€™s an aesthetic people are used to. Youā€™re sitting in a stationary object, but beyond that, everything is moving and youā€™re expecting it to change.ā€


Iā€™ve always loved this sort of concept about a car: itā€™s simultaneously an object and a location unto itself. The idea of you being ā€œin the carā€ is almost an independent location from wherever that car happens to be.

Oh, and if you watch it on YouTube, you can pan around the car with the four-way arrows in the upper left. Itā€™s not full VR, but it gives you an idea.

Itā€™s worth watching, even in the neolithic two-dimensions that I watched it in. And Iā€™m still trying to decide what the car is. So far, Iā€™m actually thinking something ā€˜80s and GM. Maybe a Citation? I canā€™t imagine one lasting as long as this one does, but still, you know, movie magic.