HISTORY SHOWS WE WANT MORE.
As we process information, we create a visual existence for it. Through reading, listening, watching, engaging, and in passive observation, we are continually architecting a visual experience from our sensory input. Repetitive failed dabbles in 3D movies of all types, 3D TV, immersive amusement park rides, arcade games, IMAX theater, and lest we forget smell-o-vision are all past evidence we wish to experience more sensory involvement with an experience.
WE WANT TO FEEL LIKE WE ARE THERE. WE ALWAYS HAVE.
Virtual reality has fallen prey to the same technological failures and false starts as well. Lack of realism and nausea being two hallmarks of most past immersive efforts, overcome with contemporary technology. With the rapid onset of VR and immersive technologies, it is hard to discern what will trend, mature, and evolve. We are watching the entire “virtual experience” become a mixture of 360 mediums including 360-video, real-time 3D generated imagery, spatial audio, real-time interactive content, and spatial/action/gesture tracked feedback.
Immersion 101: A quick primer on the last 30 years and why VR will actually make a difference.It’s been 25 years since Lawnmower Man (google it) hit the screens and let audiences imagine an impressive, albeit scary technology: Virtual Reality. The film portrayed a suit and headset (and a dose of SciFi) that gave the user the sense of being in an entirely different world by feeding sight, sound, touch, smell, etc. Controlling all the senses gave the illusion of leaving reality behind.
We’ve toyed with a variety of technologies over the years with the intent or goal to immerse the viewer in the experience. Most of these are passive. 3D movies and TV, immersive theme park rides, etc. Every effort has left us short. We rush to them, are left wanting, and then wander away. 3D TV anyone?
And even at this moment, we are being bombarded with jargon, toys, apps, and more all touting VR, immersive, 360. How do we make sense of what appears on the surface to just be another video game fad?
It’s simple: Virtual Reality suspends disbelief. You don’t question the obvious. You are scared of the height, humbled by the beauty, or otherwise experiencing real emotions or perceptions from an unreal experience. You can look around; you can look behind things, perspectives change.
This is not 360-video, this is not a passive experience where you ‘watch’ something—this is an experience where your every glance, step, and motion creates and maintains that you are in fact, somewhere else or interacting with something else. This is the distinction, and this is the standard that should be used to assess this technology as it develops at an exponential pace over the next few years. I am not implying there is no value or worth to these other technologies, as the differences between VR and other ‘immersive’ experiences simply represent different tools for different jobs.
Are we there? Well, we have sight, sound, walking around with accurate motion, and hand/object tracking which can yield a feeling, unlike anything we’ve had previously. I think the technology is ready for prime time in specific applications, but it may take a few years to bring out a blockbuster. Will you enjoy the experience? See for yourself. There’s no better way.
Immersion 201: VR, 360 video, augmented reality and more defined.Making further sense of all these immersive technologies, what we are being hit with lately takes a little awareness and more-so an eye for seeing through the marketing hype. The two main categories of immersive experiences are interactive or passive. Now, you may immediately think all these are interactive since you can look around, yet that is not the case. Interactive refers to the participant’s (not viewer’s) ability to change the narrative or experience by their interactions with it.
Virtual Reality, as it exists now, will incorporate interactivity with reality, the fabric of the experience itself is spontaneous: you look around, walk into different rooms, pick up and manipulate objects. This is interactive immersion, and at this time Virtual Reality is the best implementation we have.
360 Video and panoramic photography all allow for viewer (not participant) interaction with point of view. This content can be actual video taken over time allowing the viewer to experience the event in their chosen perspective. This is a fantastic tool, and allows for a more experiential presentation than just a photo or video taken from one perspective. If it’s only a brief moment then a simple panoramic photo can now be viewed interactively in most all instances.
Augmented Reality is another hybrid experience that is getting a little traction. Overlaying or adding computer generated elements or information into the real world if viewed through a device such as a phone, tablet, or such. Envision a magazine ad with a fully 3D, holographic apparition of the product, message or anything else sitting on your table as you turn the page. It tracks and appears to be ‘there’ in every angle as you move about as long as you’re looking through the ‘window’ of your device.
All of these technologies, especially VR and 360 Video, are being used in marketing and advertising messaging as ways to intensify the personal nature of the engagement. The opportunities to ‘experience’ your product, brand, message, art, or event from new and ‘personal-choice based’ technologies are developing at a rapid pace, and we are thrilled to explore them.