July 8, 2016

Unity Culture Club: On Your Radar – 08.07.16

It’s Friday, the sun is out and whilst many of you are no doubt escaping work for the weekend, we’re turning to another form of escapism, in the form of virtual reality. 

The most talked tech at Cannes Festival of Creativity this year, VR allows users the opportunity to explore and interact with immersive new worlds. With this in mind, this week’s On Your Radar sees resident gaming expert and YouTube presenter, Dean Abdou, escape reality with the future of this trending tech. 

Hi. I’m Dean and thanks to Unity for offering me the chance to step away from my gaming console and share with you my first OYR residency. Although usually I’m talking into a camera and reading from a teleprompter, this article is a great opportunity to share my passion and offer some more insights on this new tech. 

As the VR frontier expands, innovators are beginning to explore the potential applications of the technology and its reach to the masses through the ever-reducing price of headsets. Virtual reality may have emerged from the gaming sector, but its implications now extend to channels as diverse as film, journalism, education and social platforms. This offers endless possibilities for social good, science, entertainment, and indeed, brands.

There are so many new worlds to be discovered with VR, so let’s go explore some together.

Virtual Empathy

With projects like The Displaced and A Walk Through Dementia, we are seeing VR experiences designed to trigger emotional responses. VR provides sensory overload to stimulate and evoke moments of empathy, excitement and disgust. Unlike other technologies, no other medium to date can so effectively immerse users in somebody else’s shoes.

Through clever storytelling and a wealth of tools – HD cameras, binaural sound and powerful CGI – filmmakers can realise an endless variety of situations and prompt previously-unachievable responses from viewers. 

Using VR to drive emotion looks set to rise. The developers behind the VR headset, Oculus, recently launched its VR for Good scheme, matching ten rising filmmakers with ten non-profits to tell their stories through VR.

Entering The Mainstream

We have already begun to see VR entering our entertainment reality. From visits to VR art galleries, where you can wander within the abstract world of Dali to the LA Philharmonic where audiences are transported to the Walt Disney Concert Hall to engage with an excerpt of Beethoven’s fifth symphony.

But what about our everyday? Pygmal Technologies is beginning to explore how we can relocate our world of work with the use of a headset. SPACE takes a typical screen from the office cubical to the beach, or even outer space. Making the thought of going to work more exciting. Imagine being able to view spreadsheets, videos and all your social media far far away from the prying eyes of your boss. 

And as VR becomes more pervasive in other spheres – whether that’s doctors performing virtual surgery, or soldiers in virtual combat training – perceptions will develop to a point where day-to-day public use of VR is a reality, not just a possibility.

Edu-space

VR has made strong headway into the education sector. Lockheed Martin’s Mars Experience, which sparked young students’ curiosity with a VR-simulated trip across the red planet, is just one of many exciting initiatives. 

Away from Mars, this weekend sees the opening of Tension, a VR-centric entertainment space in my university town of Lincoln, designed to enhance learning around the city’s history. 

Through Google’s Expeditions program, the brand is looking to bring lessons to life. Through the use of VR teachers are able to remove students from the confines of the classroom and take them on rich, immersive, virtual journeys. 

With heavyweights like Google and Facebook investing in VR technologies, and their many applications, the landscape is evolving rapidly and fierce competition is coming. It’s time to start experimenting in VR.

Hollywood VR

With all of the above, it comes as no surprise, then, that the film industry is interested too. 

At this year’s Sundance New Frontiers exhibition, which highlight innovation in cinematic storytelling, 11 out of 14 projects were enhanced in some way by virtual reality. VRSE, which this week rebranded as Within, has moved quickly to cement a position as ‘Netflix of VR’. The app – which is well worth a download – is best known for its high-profile collaborations with the likes of The New York Times, the United Nation and SNL. The app showcases the best from the world of VR – including Vice documentaries, music videos from U2 and Squarepusher and even TED talks.

VR is becoming increasingly accessible, both for filmmakers, through companies like 360Heros which configure GoPro cameras to create VR content, and for viewers, through Google’s low-cost Cardboard scheme.

So that one day very soon, we can all escape.