VR Is In The Beginning of the Beginning

444429-carl-zeiss-vr-oneVR-(virtual reality): This refers to content created in a 360º environment and viewed using special goggles.
As image makers, we should all be aware of the ways images can be made. This technology is young for acceptance into the culture, so consider this an early adopter look.
At SXSW interactive this year, I figured it would be the chatter and not the conversation. There were numerous panels and presentation on all aspects.
Some basic learning’s:

Each year now in VR tech development is like 12 years. In other words, the improvements are coming at lightning speed. The folks at Oculus, feel that is like the Silent Movie era in film making – so much more to come.
Last year, the line-up at SXSW to try the Oculus Rift was huge. Now that content is loaded onto my iPhone and I can view that and way more on the Zeiss VR goggles’ Now selling for $130.

The experiences are varied as the content creators figure out who the audience is. As a singular experience, there has to be a place to go after the WOW factor.
What that experience should do is remove the wall between the observer and the observed. To be able to put you, the viewer, next to a Basketball player on the sidelines, or take you to the Antarctic while sitting in your home, is the goal
There are current apps available now, like PolarSea 360. And many, many more to get your feet wet in the experience.

The workflow for the creation of VR has it’s own pioneering feel, however.
Every company I’ve spoke to, is developing their own cameras to shoot. In a Digital Domain presentation, they revealed a machined ball, about 10” in diameter with multiple lenses all over the body. They wouldn’t let pictures be taken. Of course, some folks are using a more cost effective GoPro array of cameras, which worked in their demo. The biggest issue they had was downloading the 4K video from the mini-SD cards, as they would heat up from the transfer and slow down to a crawl on transfer. The solution they found was putting the card readers in a baggie with ice to cool em down. It worked. Like I said, everyone is working to figure it all out.

As I said, it is so early in the VR days, that everyone is designing proprietary cameras, so it’s all hush-hush.

Another element of the VR experience is the audio. A critical element, as it informs the viewer where to look. Currently, you should view the recent VR content in a spinning chair so you can get the breadth of the full 360º. As you turn, the images show you the whole world around you. Some of the new cameras being developed incorporate mics into their designs, so that the appropriate sound come from the correct location. A little bit like some surround sound home entertainment systems. New headphones will need to be developed.

There has been much talk about the nausea factor watching VR: basically your brain knows something is not in front of you, while your eyes say it is. That conflict can lead to nausea. Hence, current content is fairly short about 2-6 mins. As in 3D, there may still be a part of the population that will not be able to use the Goggles.
Many manufacturers are working towards an ideal goggle, but content will have to work hand in hand.

What does all of this mean to marketers, and when should you be looking into it? Sure, you can have a 360º visual/aural experience to demonstrate a product or service in a virtual environment

But for me, there is a key technology that I have seen in only a very few presentations.
It is a version of gaze tracking, or similar to a Kinect, where a scan of your body, triggers control.

Breaking that down, there is technology I’ve seen in use, where your gaze at a hotspot causes an action. In the Zeiss VR Goggles, they offer an app called Cinema. When you open the app, you, as an avatar, are sitting in a movie theater. When you look at a door, it opens, and the videos and photos on your phone, show up as folders in front of your eyes. You can then control the playing or showing of these materials simply by looking at the appropriate controls in the screen.

My thought is that this “hot spot” technology, can be employed within a branded piece of content so that you can look around a room, for instance, a piece of furniture catches your eye, and with a gaze you can get more info emailed to you, without leaving the experience.
Huge. Took awhile but found a company at SXSW who works with this technology. None of the majors were doing it.

In addition, Microsoft has developed the HoloLens goggles. Here is a look .

This is blend of VR and AR (actual reality). As you may walk down the hallways of your office you will see the walls and the people get a VR “skin” put on them so your office environment becomes a Starship, and the employees Troopers. I only use that example since it is what I have seen.

Now along with the feeling that you should get into VR now, as it’s not going away, you want to make sure that someone can see it.
Apps for the smartphone, and google cardboard viewers for as little as $5. Heck, you can even have them branded with your brands logo.

So for the SXSW experience on VR, it was high-minded with the big players like Pixar and Oculus Rift, to the independents like IDFA doculabs (www.idfa.nl/doculab), Robert Overweg, (http://digital.robertoverweg.com good presentation) young VR companies, like the Bui Brothers, Emmy winning Ian Hunter of New Deal Studios.

Some advertisers are already in the space, like Volvo. Ad friendly production companies like VRSE, are starting.

And just imagine the possibility for those that have lost the use of speech. Yes, eye control is in use but here is an amplification of that. Massive.

I would suggest picking up some goggles, downloading some of the content that currently exists, and get on board. This could be a fast moving train.
There are some cameras available to the consumer currently, that will do a modified 360º experience, but I’d wait on that part,
The tech will be developed. SXSW panels were in small rooms and overflowed.
Next year will be different.
I’m posting this just so you have an idea of some things coming. I don’t think that the wedding couple will ask for a VR experience of the event. That said, drones have alreday inserted themselves into the wedding package.

I’m still working with my recently repaired Contax 3, a Nikon D750, and a Fuji X-t1 while I scan old negs and slides. But the future looks pretty exciting.

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