The great thing about working in the technology industry is that it’s always changing. And with the hype of 3D now finally on the wane, virtual and augmented reality are the latest and greatest next big things – new worlds that no one can escape.
I recently attended CSI Magazine’s Virtual Reality Summit. And it was a real eye-opener – hearing first-hand from the leading lights in VR, seeing some of the exciting projects in development, and interestingly, exploring what’s in store for the future. VR is ‘real’, it’s here and now, and it’s everywhere – from education, medical and healthcare to media, events and entertainment. All are exploring new and exciting possibilities with VR.
The world of VR is a true minefield of discoveries. Yes, loads of opportunities, but also a fair few challenges. Consumer accessibility is one big question mark hanging over the medium. But as more people become aware of the experiential benefits of this ground-breaking entertainment medium, clearly the only way is up. Entry level products like Google Cardboard offer the mass market easy and accessible VR experiences. For example, Google Expeditions is already being used by schools across the globe, taking kids on virtual field trips to places they’d only ever dreamed of exploring – under the sea to discover coral reefs and sea life or into space to walk on the surface of Mars – all from a cardboard headset in their classroom.
Lorry client, and leading post production house Gramercy Park Studios, participated in the ‘Future of virtual reality’ panel at the VR Summit. Francisco Lima, visual effects technology supervisor, discussed how GPS is making waves in immersive filmmaking with technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, allowing filmmakers to produce content in new and exciting ways.
VR and AR technologies are now used to enhance the content creation process for both traditional and multiplatform media. Production teams can set up digital design spaces to virtually scout and test creative concepts, production requirements and locations. We can now perform virtual shoots and visualise digital characters and environments. Importantly, it’s not just about the creative bells and whistles. This innovative and immersive workflow from GPS saves both time and money, benefiting the efficient delivery and production of cutting-edge content.
Media and entertainment research and consultant specialists Futuresource took to the stage to support the advances of VR and AR with hard-nosed statistics. They noted recent promotional virtual reality and 360° video activity has prompted 28 times more brand recognition recall for companies employing the technology. And by 2020, the VR industry is predicted to be worth a staggering US$1.2 billion.
Virtual reality movie, music and theatre experiences are also on the rise. VFX house MPC showcased a terrifying example called Catatonic, an immersive VR journey that takes the viewer through an insane asylum in which they’re bound to a wheelchair and undergo a sensory-shocking horror thrill ride. Post-film VR experiences are also popping up in cinemas around the world. Designed around the movie playing in the cinema, promotional VR opportunities are taking viewers to the next level of engagement with the movie they’ve just watched, encouraging further engagement and making it memorable.
Music VR is becoming an entire entity of its own, and VR music videos could soon replace the conventional 2D format that we’re all familiar with. Apple Music has already started curating original content with top artists, like U2’s ‘Song for Someone’ and The Weeknd’s hit ‘The Hills’ getting the full VR video treatment. And with the news breaking that ABBA are officially reuniting for the first time in over 30 years to bring fans a virtual and augmented ‘time machine’ reality experience, there’s certainly a whole lot to look forward too!
Theatre companies and directors are also embracing the power of virtual reality. From Broadway shows like The Lion King presenting 360° viewing, to smaller scale fringe projects, the possibilities in mixed, augmented and virtual reality really are game-changers. They’re opening up completely new and immersive opportunities to sell tickets.
Overall, I left the summit with the sense that VR is definitely here to stay. It’s not just another fad. As it continues to (literally) develop in front of our eyes, widespread adoption really isn’t that far off – a couple of years at most. But for ‘tomorrow’s technology’ to continue giving us extraordinary experiences today, content will always be key and having access to affordable viewing technology will also be instrumental in a mass market uptake.
With big players across various different industries making big investments in virtual and augmented reality technology, this can only help make the medium a runaway success. Personally, I’m excited for the future, to see how VR will be used in the coming years, and if we’ll end up wondering what we did before VR was a part of our lives!