What’s the deal with VR?
The idea of virtual reality has been all the rage in the last few years. With options ranging from cardboard headsets to often-overpriced pieces of hardware, we’ve all been told that virtual reality will change the way we interact with the world around us. However, with the “real deal” priced out of the hands of many, a lot of people’s experiences with this new technology are limited to laughing at YouTube videos of others wearing the headsets and tripping over things in their house.
So, is there any real use for these contraptions?
My first experience with "VR" was using Google’s cardboard-style glasses with my phone. While that was kind of fun, it felt more gimmicky than anything. You had to have the phone aligned just right inside the cardboard holder, and you had to hold the thing up to your face the whole time. This isn’t to say that Google Cardboard doesn't have its place. It can certainly be a fun and inexpensive way to experience VR content, but I was keenly aware that what I was experiencing was not reality.
Then I got the chance to try out an Oculus Rift headset, and my opinion of VR changed instantly. I slipped the headset on, dropped the headphones on over my ears, and picked up the controllers. Within seconds, I was transported to the interior of a spaceship. An indicator flashed on an object in front of me, telling me to push down on what looked like an open cassette deck with my finger. I instinctively knew how to use the controller to interact with it.
About 20 minutes later, I emerged from the virtual spaceship, and it felt strange to be back in my office. Now, obviously I knew that I hadn’t actually been on a spaceship, but it was believable enough that I was willing to ignore that voice inside my head saying "Hey, dummy! This isn't real!" This phenomenon is referred to in the entertainment industry as "the suspension of disbelief." Audiences want to feel immersed in a story, so they allow themselves to forget about reality for a while in order to enjoy a new experience, whether that be a TV show, film, or even a theater performance.
As a storyteller, you have to be careful not to break that disbelief with bad camera shots, poorly recorded audio, terrible greenscreens, or about a thousand other things. The technology putting on the show needs to be invisible. As soon as the audience's attention is drawn to the tech, they are pulled out of the story and back into the reality that they are watching something constructed for their enjoyment.
This is why I think VR content is so exciting.
TV/Film forces you to experience the story from just one perspective, and it is projected onto a flat surface (and yet we are willing to accept that as reality!). Now imagine having that story literally wrapped around you. There is unique content everywhere you look. You hear a noise behind you and turn around to see what was making that sound. There is an object on the ground in front of you and you reach down and pick it up. You hold it in your hand and turn it around, examining it’s shape, color, and texture. When you let go of the object, it falls back to the ground.
The possibilities for this technology are almost endless, even in marketing. Maybe you have a two-ton machine you want people to be able to see. Instead of hauling it around, why not just take a computer and a VR headset? With VR, you could have a mini version of the machine that people can virtually pick up and hold in their hand, or a “life-size” model people can pull pieces off of and look inside.
Alternatively, maybe you have a really small object that is very complex. You could have a giant version of it that people can spin around and inspect. Maybe you have it cut in half so people can pull it apart and examine the inner parts. Maybe people are in front of a control panel and, as they push different buttons, the components of the object split apart and highlight different features. The options VR provides are really only limited by your imagination.
While VR is still in its infancy, here at Hellman, we are actively exploring what can be done with it. We would love to work with you to develop a VR solution that can make your dream a (virtual) reality. Contact us today to learn more.