Warrimoo artist Rosie Dennis wins virtual reality funding

International researcher: Rosie Dennis, during a dress rehearsal at the Carriageworks in Sydney last year, is celebrating funding for a virtual reality project.
International researcher: Rosie Dennis, during a dress rehearsal at the Carriageworks in Sydney last year, is celebrating funding for a virtual reality project.

Warrimoo artist Rosie Dennis has been selected as one of seven NSW recipients to receive development funding in the burgeoning field of virtual reality.

In 2019, when her ambitious virtual reality project – which is still very much under wraps –  comes to life, it could have widespread ramifications for domestic violence.

“It will be a five to seven minute experience … a project called The Sound of Violence. We really need to test it with [male] focus groups [next year]… It’s about trying to impact a feeling of fear. 

With almost $20,000 in funding, Ms Dennis, will travel to California, to research virtual reality practice at the South by Southwest (SXSW) interactive conference and International Animation and Virtual Reality Research Center (iAVRrc) next year. She will also buy high end goggles and other equipment to set up a virtual reality space.

She said her VR project could be experienced in a group situation and her “driving factor was the capacity for this platform to shift perceptions”.

“Virtual reality just presented a really interesting platform for us to explore … all around violence against women.” 

Ms Dennis said she was thrilled to get the funding: “It’s fantastic, it’s really great, it’s such a new area for me and the company so the opportunity to play an experiment is fantastic. 

Ms Dennis, 43, is the artistic director of Urban Theatre Projects at Bankstown. The funds were made available through the inaugural Create NSW 360 vision: Virtual Reality Development Initiative for the Arts 2017.

“It [virtual reality] is an interesting space for a theatre director – you are already thinking of 360 degrees ... it’s a good synergy.”

Virtual reality technology was moving quickly, she said, and she also wanted to ensure others benefited from her international experience.

“If I’m learning in this space, I also want to share that with other people. Once I’ve come back … I’ll do a range of open workshops, [people can] look at the software, ask questions.” 

While this week one Australian couple became engaged through the marvels of virtual reality, Ms Dennis said she sees a higher purpose application in niche areas like health and defence.

“In health, where people unable to walk can have a virtual reality experience … Unicef [for example] were able to get people to put on the goggles and be on the ground in Syria in refugee camps – their donations increased, because people were able to see and hear it.”

Create NSW CEO Michael Brealey said he looked forward to seeing creative possibilities come to life for new audiences in the inaugural year for the fund.