Do you like podcasts? Do you like virtual reality? I'm hoping you occupy that particular sweet spot on the Venn diagram. I'm Ben Gilbert, and this is "Episode Zero" of "Three Bens in VR," the pilot episode of a podcast about all things virtual reality -- hosted by three guys named Ben! You've probably read some of the many, many pieces I've written on virtual reality right here on Engadget, and you've probably read the many works of my esteemed colleagues Ben Kuchera (of Polygon) and Ben Lang (of RoadtoVR). Regardless of our shared first name, what unites us on this show is a shared passion for the emerging medium of virtual reality.

So! Do us all a solid and give it a listen -- be warned that there's a brief section of wonky audio around three minutes in! Then let us know how you feel about the show in the comments, or via Twitter (all our handles are linked below), or however else you'd like! We want to hear it!

Hosts: Engadget senior editor Ben Gilbert, Polygon senior editor Ben Kuchera and RoadtoVR executive editor Ben Lang

Music: Steve Combs - +32 (FMA)

Producer: Jon Turi

Direct download: Episode Zero

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Right now is an exciting time for VR, and this year's Sundance Film Festival is full proof of that. Over the past few days, we've experienced new virtual reality horizons and got to know some of the visionaries who have jump-started the technology. VR, arguably in its second life, has opened up a novel medium for storytelling and a way to create deeply immersive experiences for most any audience -- be it with films, video games or, why not, a full-body flight simulator. Here's the best part: This is only the beginning.

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Look out, Hollywood, because Oculus VR is coming for you. Earlier today, the Facebook-owned company introduced its new film division Story Studio, as it looks to broaden its horizons and experiment with narrative through virtual reality. The first short film to come out of Oculus VR's in-house movie lab is Lost, which is making its debut at Sundance. In addition to that, Story Studio has revealed that it's already working on more shorts with a VR twist to them, all expected to appeal to different audiences. Along with Lost, there's also going to be Dear Angelica, Bullfighter and Henry, plus two other films that haven't been announced yet.

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After several years on hiatus, an official announcement and the shockingly rapid decline of the music game market, Rock Band suddenly leapt back to life this month. Harmonix Music Systems -- the studio responsible for the music game craze, and the studio that created Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Dance Central -- announced new tracks heading to the Rock Band online store, which works with both Rock Band 3 and Rock Band Blitz. Why in the world is Harmonix releasing new tracks as paid, downloadable content for games that only exist on previous generation consoles? The official word is full of public relations obfuscation:

"We had an exciting opportunity to add new content to the already-massive Rock Band library with a song from Arctic Monkeys – a band that's never been in a Rock Band title before! – as well as new music from fan favorites Avenged Sevenfold and Foo Fighters. We couldn't pass it up. Also, we wanted to see if we could still do it. Turns out we can. It's sort of like riding a bike."

Great. That out of the way, what's really happening? Companies don't just casually release new content for years old games. That's not a thing that happens. I'd call it "testing the waters."

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Around the time Oculus VR began experimenting internally with the creation of tech demos, investor Marc Andreessen, impressed with what he'd seen, urged Brendan Iribe, Oculus VR's CEO, to show them off to Hollywood. Andreessen believed the medium was a perfect fit for that industry. Iribe, in turn, showed his company's prototype Rift technology to an unnamed, major Hollywood director. That director, responding the way most do when they first encounter modern-day virtual reality, enthusiastically implored Iribe to join forces and create a feature film with it. Iribe immediately balked and shot down the offer. "I don't know the first thing about movies," he says of that initial conversation.

That was then. Today, Oculus VR plans to figure out the entertainment industry in a big way. With Story Studio, an in-house innovation lab focused on exploring and sharing tools and techniques to craft entertainment experiences within VR, the Facebook-owned company is embarking on a different path. Outside "guest directors" will be brought in to work with the studio and lead Creative Director Saschka Unseld, a former Pixar director, in what is essentially a VR workshop. And along the way, Oculus hopes to refine what it means to inhabit VR on a cinematic level, beginning with its first animated short, Lost, which will debut at Sundance.

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On Saturday morning in Ann Arbor, Michigan, it was about 30 degrees outside, but I was in my backyard enjoying a 75-degree day at the beach. That's only possible because I was testing out the first attempt at streaming virtual reality from one place to another -- in this case from Laguna Beach, California, to a Samsung Gear VR headset strapped to my head. Thanks to technology from the folks at Next VR, I could see and hear everything in 3D as though I was actually there, looking around in a virtual reality environment while on the phone with co-founder David Cole.

Next VR's demo reel takes viewers to a prerecorded NBA game, beach scene or Coldplay concert, but until now, no one outside of its labs has actually used the technology to visit another place via a live feed. A couple of years ago, we talked to the company about its plans to distribute live video in a virtual reality environment and today that dream came true.

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When Navid Khonsari left Rockstar Games after working as the cinematic director on several Grand Theft Auto titles, he was sure he wouldn't make another video game. Instead, he returned to his first love, documentary filmmaking and, in the process, stumbled upon the creation of 1979 Revolution. "A culmination of doing games, falling in love with narrative storytelling and now this new fascination with documentary really became the seed for 1979," he says. "That combined with my personal experience of growing up in Iran and experiencing the revolution firsthand."

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The 2015 Sundance Film Festival has been taken over by virtual reality, but not every project being showcased here tells a story in a different way. Some filmmakers choose to make experiences based on computer-generated imagery; others prefer a live-action feel for their work. Kaiju Fury!, a 360-degree, 3D cinematic virtual reality film, goes with the latter approach. The project is a collaboration among New Deal Studios, Jaunt VR and the Stan Winston School of Character Arts, which combined forces last year to take more of a traditional narrative approach to VR. The result is a 5-minute short that instantly reminds you of classic franchises such as Godzilla, Jurassic Park and even Gremlins.

What I saw at Sundance was a 3-minute version of Kaiju Fury!, which was being screened on a Google Cardboard headset paired with a Samsung Galaxy S5. According to Ian Hunter, who wrote and directed the short, the final cut is expected to be released in roughly two months.

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Virtual reality is in the midst of an ongoing renaissance, sparking incredible interest from all along the spectrum, including tech giants like Facebook, young startups, big movie studios and independent filmmakers. With that in mind, VRSE, a new production company in the VR space, has taken to Sundance 2015 to reveal its big ambitions for this immersive technology. And it all starts with Evolution of Verse, a 3.5-minute short film featuring a computer-generated landscape setting and other visual effects that are designed to push the envelope of virtual reality.

Over the past couple of days in Utah, I've been asked several times: "What does virtual reality have to do with Sundance?" Granted, that was brought up by people who don't necessarily keep up with the technology and film industries. Still, the question isn't without merit. To a certain degree though, this year's New Frontier event, an exhibit for creators to feature unordinary storytelling during the festival, is where you'll find the answer to that inquiry. It was there that platforms like the Oculus Rift were born, while more recently, works like Birdly, a virtual reality flight simulator, look to reach new audiences and showcase how science can interact with technology. With its VR experiments, VRSE hopes to make a big impact in the burgeoning space.

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"Print stuff didn't scratch the itch. Documentary didn't scratch the itch. TV drama didn't scratch the itch. It wasn't until I started building this stuff. There was no way I could do anything else. I just couldn't do anything else. I don't know even how to explain that. And I think sometimes I wanna shoot myself in the head that I can't do anything else because it just motivates me. [VR] drives me. This is such a visceral empathy generator. It can make people feel in a way that nothing, no other platform I've ever worked in can successfully do in this way."

Let that stand as your introduction to Nonny de la Peña, the woman pioneering a new form of journalism that aims to place viewers within news stories via virtual reality. That vision has culminated in Emblematic Group, her content- and VR hardware-focused company that she runs along with her brother in Los Angeles.

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