I found this video amazing; it is an explanation of how they used a real person to create a game character, and in the process invented the combination of technology needed to allow that person to act in real time in the game. Which means that anyone with deep enough pockets (which would have to be very deep, at this point) could schedule time to get themselves scanned and processed, buy the gear including the head mounted camera system, and do the same thing. It allows you to be fully immersed in the 360 VR game environment as yourself, with everyone able to see and hear you, right down to your current facial expression. Of course, it will be a decade or so before the price comes down enough that the rest of us get to try this out, but its good to know it is on the way.
Marvel’s Doctor Strange will be hitting theaters this weekend, and as a great tie in between that visually interesting comic book movie environment and the VR colonization of mainstream media in 2016, three of the best Google Tilt Brush artists are participating in a global event. In Hong Kong (Stuart Campbell), New York (Danny Bittman), and London (Steve Teeple) they will be sharing their creations for all to enjoy.
There will be 85 hours of VR programming coming out of the Olympics watchable by way of the NBC Sports app. Sadly the plan is to make this only available to Samsung Galaxy smartphones compatible with Gear VR, and that only after logging in with their pay TV provider. I fully understand and agree with the need to authenticate viewers before allowing them access to their premium content; they are paying an awful lot of money to get the exclusive distribution rights, after all. But there are a lot of us VR junkies running everything from Google Cardboard with an iPhone or non-Samsung android phone, on up to the Oculus Rift crowd driving their $500 VR headsets with their $1,500 computers with the massive graphics cards, who could be watching this programming if they would allow us a paid authentication path into it as well.
Still, this is the very first time any VR access to the Olympics has ever been available, and the second major sporting event to be hosted in this format this year (the first being the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, which came with a Google Cardboard viewer you could fold up and use with your smartphone to view the photo shoots in VR). There is a good chance their app builders have only been able to make it work on the Samsung version of Android so far, limiting it to the Gear. I certainly can’t imagine they don’t want to sell the programing to every one they could, although if they didn’t develop the VR app themselves they may be at the mercy of the contracts signed by the folks who did create it. So I for one will be keeping my fingers crossed that they manage to deploy it to the iPhone iOS and other Android builds in time for the rest of us to sign up for it and enjoy it during the Olympics. Although we wont be able to see it live; there is a bit of a delay in editing and processing the stereo 360 degree SuperHD 8K video into a formatted stream that can be fed to the app, and yes, that is a 4K movie theater resolution video stream for each eye. And even if they don’t have a way to deliver it to anything but a Gear for the Olympics themselves, once they have it recorded the rest of us can enjoy it down the road when they do get the app working for all the other platforms. Thanks to VR Scout for the heads up on this one.
BBC Click put together the first ever TV episode recorded entirely in 360 degrees for VR headsets, although it can also be viewed on the desktop or with a mobile phone. They have a bunch of good content, like a helicopter ride to a glacier, a glimpse of computer game SUPERHOT, and a visit to the world’s largest physics experiment (CERN, of course). But I particularly liked the bit where they told us how they made the show, with some ideas about how the rest of us could get into creating our own 360 videos.
Björk’s Stonemilker is a 360 degree video that she posted around this time in 2015, ready to be played in your VR headset of choice (as previously mentioned, mine is Google Cardboard). Before it was released to You Tube it was a Museum of Modern Art installation in the VW Dome, where they set up 7 VR headset stations so museum goers could have the full experience. Now she is touring the world with the Björk Digital Exhibition, which currently includes Stonemilker and three other VR tracks from her album Vulnicura. She plans to render the other 5 pieces from that CD into VR format, and release the entire thing as the Vulnicura VR Album. Thanks to VR Scout for the heads up on this one.
BBC Taster is the experimental site for the development of digital content and emerging technology, and it is chock full of both 360 degree videos as well as true VR experiences, which are well worth exploring. In my mind, the difference between the two is interactivity; if you can click on icons to change the presentation in different ways it is VR, if not it is a 360 movie. As a single instance of what is on offer at BBC Taster, The Kraken Wakes 360 started with the radio play and musical score they created from John Wyndham’s science fiction novel of the same name. They layered the 360 degree video on top of a piece of that and made it available for public viewing, with the request that once you watch it (or any of their VR/360 pieces) you rate it. They are trying to get an idea of what works and doesn’t work for people with different kinds of presentations before they crank it up to full production mode, and unlike all the developers using focus groups and test audiences in secret or restricted environments, they are making the public part of the decision making process right from the beginning. They are also taking it on tour across the UK to events like the Sheffield Doc/Fest 2016 which begins today, setting up VR presentation areas complete with the hardware and headsets, so people who don’t have the gear at home can give their feedback. Nor are they the only ones; the Alternate Realities: Virtual Reality Arcade at the Sheffield Documentary Festival has a range of presentations, including the ones from BBC Taster, organized and implemented by Site Gallery and supported by the Arts Council of England. As the year progresses there will be more and more of these kinds of organized public VR gatherings all over the world, so keep your eyes out for the ones happening in your neighborhood.