Virtual Reality and the Promise

Ever since I first saw Star Trek: The Next Generation I have always being hopeful that I’d see some of the technology from that show within my lifetime. With the increased popularity of mobile phones and apps, I saw the promise of a Tricorder. Now with VR, I am starting to see the elusive beginnings of one of my other dream Star Trek technologies - the Holodeck.

VR has been defined as "...a realistic and immersive simulation of a three-dimensional environment, created using interactive software and hardware, and experienced or controlled by movement of the body"[1] or as an "immersive, interactive experience generated by a computer"[2]. A person using virtual reality equipment is typically able to "look around" an artificial world, move about in it and interact with features or items that are depicted on a screen or in goggles. 

Virtual reality is not a new technology per se - you can see the beginnings of this as far back as 1939 in the viewmaster which we all may have used as kids. It has come a long way since then, its capabilities is nearing the possibilities of technology from the Sci -Fi films and novels which I consumed when I was younger.

Until recently the hardware for viewing VR experiences has been out of reach for mainstream consumers and creatives due to its cost being too excessive. However, with the advent of mobile phones and some forward thinking companies, the cost of a VR experience can be as little as that of a mobile phone plus 2 lenses and some cardboard. Or it could cost a lot more, depending on the experience you want. 

Why use VR over existing media forms? It's very hard sometimes to convey an immersive or kinetic experience simply by words and pictures alone - you simply need to be there or experience the promise of an experience. Things like a safari, a trip up the Himalayas, or the look of the interior of a new car would are experienced better through VR/360 content compared to traditional media, as they allow you to immerse yourself and feel the experience. 

A great piece I saw recently with 360 video conveyed how certain people with autism perceive the world around them and how painful sensory overload can be. This is a rather beautiful piece which makes you see the world from another person's perspective; therein lies the power of VR and what it can deliver. 

There are a lot of options in regards to which hardware to use for viewing VR content. Though to watch 360 videos and some VR, I would recommend these listed below, depending on your phone: 

  1. Google cardboard (any phone)
  2. Samsung Gear (Compatible Samsung devices)
  3. Google Daydream (Compatible Android devices) 

I could discuss which devices to use in more detail - Oculus rift vs HTC Vive vs OSVR vs Hololens vs Mobile Phone + headset, but we would be heading into costs of £450 - £1200 upwards, which at the moment make these outside the budget of the average consumer. For now mobile phone combined with a headset is the most cost effective way, but I do believe dedicated consumer devices will be nearing the price point in the not so distant future. 

VR has the perception of being a fad. I remember thinking that of smartphones and apps. Three years after the smartphone revolution, I became an app developer. Am I now looking at 3D engines and webgl technologies to create VR experiences? In the words of Walter White “You’re dam right!”

At Spindogs we recently worked with Rockadove on some VR 360 video concepts, and the results are astounding - take a look! If you want to see what we’re banging on about, pop in and we’ll have a headset for you to use to get the full picture. 

If you would like any more information about VR or are looking to get a 360 video made, please get in touch and we would be more than happy to help!

 

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Gareth Gwyther
About Gareth Gwyther

Gareth, or more commonly known as Gaz, is one of our highly skilled developers. He was one of the first people we hired back in 2006, so he knows a story or two about Spindogs! On a daily basis Gaz works on a range of web and mobile projects and is excellent at understanding client requirements and managing deadlines.

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