On board for the VR adventure…
The past six months have seen a sea-change in attitudes to VR
from across the board. Entertainment and gaming companies have been
pumping funds into the nascent industry, while a range of other
sectors – from healthcare to automotive – have made it clear that VR
and AR technology hold great potential for them.
Developments in filmed VR content production in particular have moved
at a rapid pace in the past few months, with major film companies
investing in studios, technology and skills, all of which are required
to ensure their ability to produce top-notch VR films.
In June alone, we saw some major investments: Film veterans from
Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic and Disney launched CryWorks, a VR
entertainment company; Within (formerly known as VRSE) raised $12.56
million funds for expansion; Felix & Paul raised $6.8 million, and The
Virtual Reality Company secured $23 million from a Chinese investor.
Clearly the key players in the world of content production see a
bright future for VR and are keen to secure a piece of the action.
Admittedly, there is much work to do in order to develop a truly
viable VR ecosystem for film and broadcast. The penetration of VR
headsets remains low, but as anybody who has tested an HTC VIVE or
Oculus Rift will attest, the VR experience is so immersive that it
seems inevitable that it will move into the mainstream – and faster
than most people think. It’s likely that we will increasingly see
headsets bundled with various high-end smartphones and laptops, and
this will help to increase demand for VR content. Furthermore,
high-profile VR projects such as The Martian VR Experience and the
Ghostbusters VR experience will also help to attract people to try out
the new medium.
But it’s not just professional filmmakers who will define filmed VR
content. Broadcasters are also eyeing the opportunity to show events
in VR. Indeed, according to research from Goldman Sachs, the broadcast
of live events including sports, concerts and even political rallies
could generate revenues of $4.1 billion by 2025.
But why should live VR feeds only be limited to big broadcasters? If
the rise of YouTube, Periscope and citizen journalism is anything to
go by, it is individuals who will ultimately produce the vast majority
of live VR content. It’s the logical progression when you think about
it, as the opportunity for user-generated content is practically
unlimited: Just imagine a young backbacker climbing the Himalayas and
inviting an elderly grandparent in another country to share the
adventure via a live VR feed. This type of activity will be possible
as 360-degree cameras fall in cost and 4G networks become more
prevalent. There are already start-up companies working on personal
stereoscopic VR cameras that will be small enough to be attached to
the user’s clothing, and new compression technologies will also help
to transfer the necessary data.
It’s my guess that VR marks such a shift in the world of
entertainment, broadcast and communication that we can’t quite guess
where it will take us. But one thing is for sure: it’s going to be one
hell of a ride.
This post was written by Rob Field, the founder and editor of VR Film Pro, a website dedicated to VR for film and broadcast.
VR & AR World conference 2016, London.
If you’d like to meet other VR and AR experts and find out more about how both virtual and augmented reality are being used across a wide range of industries, and how companies plan to use them in the future, visit the VR & AR World event website.