HBO leverages VR for season five of hit series Silicon Valley

HBO's Silicon Valley is celebrating its fifth season with the launch of a VR experience called Silicon Valley: Inside the Hacker Hostel

Marcus Zallman
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With the show’s fifth season premiere starting on Sunday, March 25, the cable channel is debuting Silicon Valley: Inside the Hacker Hostel, a virtual reality recreation of the infamous house where the show’s main characters have lived and failed, again and again, to build their business.

The experience will be available on the HTC Viveport service, and will offer users more than 700 interactive experiences, from playing foosball to taking bong rips.

The captivating, interactive VR experience will provide one-on-one encounters with Richard (Thomas Middleditch), Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani), Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), Big Head (Josh Brener) and Jian-Yang (Jimmy O. Yang).

The attention to detail makes this experience unique. Not only is the environment a faithful reconstruction using photos and blueprints from the set, but in addition to objects you can pick up and put down, there are many elements you can fully interact with. These include the Not Hot Dog app, the race to get “always blue,” the messy kitchen, and fridge, the original Pied Piper jacket, and even the Burning Man poster on the wall.

You’ll have to try to help Richard solve a coding crisis, make toast, play piano, draw on a whiteboard, toss a few things in a garbage can, destroy old hard drives, and even play a little foosball. The experience is packed full of items you can interact with; 756 to be exact. This phenomenal number was made possible using forward rendering; this technique improves the overall performance (framerate) of the experience allowing REWIND to pack the experience with objects.

Silicon Valley: Inside the Hacker Hostel was developed by immersive content studio REWIND in UNREAL Engine 4, and is built to run on HTC Vive. The real-time VR experience takes place inside an authentic recreation of the Hacker Hostel, a central part of the HBO show. REWIND used 3DS Max & Maya to faithfully recreate the Hacker Hostel environment from top-down blueprints of the actual set of the show and used photo reference to replicate the materials for all of the assets in Substance Designer and Substance Painter. REWIND also took HDR 360 captures of each of the rooms on set, to replicate the interior lighting as best as possible. 

As with many VR experiences, the Silicon Valley project is fun. Those who have an HTC Vive can dive in and try to achieve as many of Dinesh and Gilfoyle’s goals as possible, but once they’ve done so, it’s hard to imagine that they’ll want to play again. Of course, if you’re a fan of the show, you probably have friends who are too.