May 21, 2015

What the Heck is VR? : My Recap of SVVR 2015

Silicon Valley Virtual Reality 2015
If the number of business cards is a barometer as to the amount of brain food I consumed at SVVR this week in San Jose, I’m going to need to loosen the strap on my headset. Mind blowing! For those of you not familiar with Virtual Reality (VR), it is 360-degree, 3D video or CG environment. The medium is not new but VR has gained new momentum due to the advent of head-mounted displays that allow you to view VR on your mobile device.  No Imax theater, flight simulator or powerful gaming PC needed. VR is now portable. The story is no longer in a frame, it's all around us.

My takeaways from SVVR 2015:

  • Mobile VR devices are forecast to ship at a rate of 28 Million by 2020
  • Because of this adoption rate, Storytellers are going to have to learn to write for 360-degree, spherical video. See video to right for an admittedly crude demo from my hotel room. 
  • The advertising paradigm will also have to change for immersive environments.
  • Ears don’t blink. Audio is just as important as video for presence in VR. 
  • Presence and story are intertwined. Losing presence is like a cell phone going off during a movie. You want to use story and good production values to keep the viewer in the moment. 
  • Challenges for Storytellers include how do you infer where the audience should look?
    Cliff Plumer of Jaunt Studios
    & Aaron Koblin of VRSE
     How do you not get the crew in the shot?  
  • What is the grammar of VR editing? Should you use hard edits? Cross fades? What about camera movement? Opinions were mixed except everyone agreed on limited, slow movement to reduce simulator sickness. Cliff Plumer of Jaunt Studios also said camera height should be consistent to maintain presence.   

Startups and Projects I found interesting at the SVVR Expo.
A Veteran on Hospice uses
Google Cardboard
  • is a project I'm leading which will come out later in 2015. It’s a VR experience to the World War II memorial for terminally ill and aging Veterans not able to physically travel. The collaboration is with JauntVR, Google, Veterans United Foundation, Honor Flight and Ghost Machine VR. I'm looking for VR volunteers willing to host viewings at their local nursing homes.
  •  Nod is a new “joystick” of sorts that looks like a ring and acts like a trigger finger.
  •  Emergent VR's "Mobius" project makes recording Spherical video on your smartphone and sharing it easy. Instagram of VR
    The Nod
  • Cameras that shoot stereoscopic 360, 3D video are expensive but you can find a consumer-grade camera that shoots monoscopic, spherical 360 video (without the 3D) for a few hundred dollars. I’ve tried both the VSN mobile camera and Ricoh Theta consumer versions. Prefer Theta as it doesn’t require an additional adapter to get the videos into your computer. But getting it to Youtube still takes an extra step of connecting it to your computer. 
  • WeVR had some incredible VR content that I saw on Google Cardboard. Some of the most psychedelic I’ve seen thus far. Lots of movement in those experiences and surprisingly, I never felt sick. 
  • AltVR is like social media in an interactive environment. You can talk to people behind a life-life avatar.  Think 3D Hangouts but in a full body virtual environment where
     you’re dressed like a storm trooper. The future implications of this, fascinating!
  • Cerevum is a new VR training platform. 
  • Lines were hours long to try the Crescent Bay consumer version of Oculus Rift that comes out later this year. I have an Oculus Dev2 kit and didn’t want to wait that long. Someone please tell me what did you think? 
  • Several companies had solutions for LiveVR where the 360 video is stitched automatically as it’s outputted. For my newsies, 360, 3D VR video isn’t quite there yet for a day turn story due to the time it takes for stitching. But if you weren’t under a tight deadline, stations could create companion pieces in VR.     
  • Lots of VR goggles at the expo. Google tech is a pair of reading glass that slides on your mobile device and fits in a small glasses case.
  • The Zeiss VR One head-mounted display has impressive optics. It’s mobile device agnostic and runs like Google cardboard.  Pop in your phone, load the app and play. 
  • Palmer Luckey, creator of the Oculus Rift, stood outside the conference hall and talked to VR enthusiasts for several hours after his session. Even demoed some apps. 
  • Watched a great session with Nonny De La Peña who is the “Godmother of VR”. She creates virtual, CG environments to tell stories. She gave hope to the creatives in the room who are hearing “this will never scale.” 
  • Face Shift matches the movement of your face to your avatar’s face.   
  • Burning Man VR camp… Make it happen! 

How are you using VR? I would love to hear about your projects.
See you at SVVR in 2016!

Burning Man VR Camp. Make it Happen