Imagine having the ability to take your audience on an immersive journey of your own design, exciting their senses, putting them fully in the moment, all without actually leaving the comfort of their home, office or event space.
Virtual Reality technology is finally here, not just for us tech geeks to play with, but for a wider mainstream audience. What’s more, it no longer relies on CGI graphics; 360-degree film opens up a whole new realm of ‘real-world’ experiences.
So, how does it all work? Lets take a look.
360 degree (spherical videos) use multiple cameras to create a truly realistic first-person point of view in all directions, allow you to explore environments as if actually there. Users can interact with the videos via Facebook or YouTube, in a similar manner to Google street view using most modern web browsers.
(The above footage was shot with the GoPro Spherical camera Array.)
The YouTube mobile app opens up new ways to experience these videos, making use of a smartphone’s inbuilt accelerometer and gyroscope to turn it into a video controller. This creates a link between the physical and the digital; and starts to introduce users to this sense of ‘presence’ that John Carmack makes reference to.
Using VR headsets, the line between reality and digital becomes inextricably blurred, allowing us to both confuse and excite our audience’s sense of environment. Virtual Reality taps into this ‘mental disruption’, enabling us to take users on a journey of discovery.
There are a number of devices on the market, from the lo-fi to the epic (and expensive!) that allow us to do this.
Perhaps the most simple, fun and affordable way to get started in the world of VR. It uses your own smartphone housed in folded card. Simply download a viewing app and you’re away.
Samsung Gear VR
So this is where things start to get a little more interesting! Samsung has teamed up with Oculus to provide probably the most accessible “advanced” VR solution on the market to date.
The Gear VR has a super AMOLED display, which combined with precise head tracking and low latency give rise to a fantastic virtual experience. It truly offers up an experience that I imagined in my mind as a child when I first caught a glimpse of the early VR headsets.
Similar to Google Cardboard, it makes use of a smartphone to power the device, specifically the Samsung Galaxy S6 / S7. In our view this is the best ‘portable’ VR solution available. We have been testing ‘rigorously’ (it’s work honest) in the office, it’s fantastic to watch people get lost in the experiences.
It’s with the Samsung Gear VR that 360 video comes into its own. There are already a multitude of experiences pre-loaded into the Oculus store that make use of this technology. From soaring above the world’s largest volcano with National Geographic to surfing in Tahiti, the experiences are genuinely awesome.
Usage: Due to its portability, this is a fantastic solution for product launches, events, showrooms, and on-the-go experiences.
The name everyone knows. The Oculus Rift has been in development for the past couple of years, and a consumer version has just started shipping. It connects to a high-powered desktop PC giving it significantly more firepower than the Cardboard and Gear combined.
With 4K resolution video playback and comprehensive stereoscopic vision (depth perception), this device has the power to transcend reality and transport you to different worlds in an instant.
Ours is due to arrive any day now . . . I can literally sense the virtual excitement in the office.
Usage: The Oculus Rift will offer the most immersive experience by a long way. As with the Gear, its application is with product launches, events, showroom and event installations where it can be set up and left.
The opportunities here are endless, its applications are only just beginning to be understood.
From adventure sports and travel documentaries, to training programmes and education. From property walkthroughs and architectural visualisations, to immersive advertising and music videos. Frankly, the sheer number of possibilities is quite intoxicating.
Let’s end with a question: how much more effective would your content be if you could place people into a world of your design, or immediately transport them to a different place and time?
Things are about to get very, very interesting…
NB: Fancy a go? Why not pop into the office and pop on a headset.