technology, opinion

Why is VR important to Entertainment?

There's a lot of press this year surrounding Virtual Reality and after many years of promise, the VR future seems to be approaching with HTC, Oculus and Sony all set to release headsets.

But why should you care? How does VR have the potential to disrupt entertainment? 

Full immersion is very compelling. I had a demo recently of the Oculus Rift headset with a graphic level that was rudimentary at best. I stepped back onto a platform that appeared to rise up the side of a building. I was then asked to jump off. It was very difficult. It didn't take high quality graphics to convince my brain I was there, just the synchronising of my own movement and 3d imagery. 

As a way of showing how entertainment might change, watch the video below released by Epic Games for their new Unreal 4 Engine. All the environment was generated in real time. That's 100 square miles. It's beautiful and as you watch it imagine being able to explore, fly over the hills and forests, dive into the lake, climb the mountain in VR. 

Then it's a very short step to imagining a version of How to Train Your Dragon, where you are another character in the film, following the lead characters around, perhaps helping the plot along, or just stealing a dragon to go for a joyride. 

Laguna, California's  Next VR has patented technology systems for providing stitched multi-camera arrays for live events such as sport or concerts. 

Imagine being able to purchase a front row ticket to your favourite band every time. Imagine sitting at home and even if you're not so tall, always being able to see from the best vantage point. Wearing your VR headset with surround sound you're transported to the excitement of a live show, perhaps paying a premium to view live or perhaps having revisited your favourite show for another look. Next time you go to the gig you might decide to watch from the balcony instead, or change position for each song. You can look around, turn to watch the people behind you (possibly annoyed at the lumpen camera rig blocking their view) and scan the surroundings as you choose. Fancy a beer? Take your headset off and go to your fridge. You won't even have to wait to be served.

There's no real replacement of course for actually being there physically, but most of the the time people don't get the chance. I'd also love to go back and re-experience some of the gigs I have been to physically. 

Also imagine this as a vehicle for interactive politics. There's a speech on in the centre of town. There's no capacity for the politician to talk to more than 200 people in the venue but their speech will affect many voters. Everyone that wants to could be there watching through VR. The potential for engagement is enormous. How about watching the election debates live and from in the room next to the mediator. Really being able to see the candidates up close. 

Maybe entertainment is only the beginning...