LOOK­ING TO A VIR­TUAL FU­TURE

As VR goes main­stream, Laura Snoad ex­am­ines how cre­atives can har­ness the medium to make mean­ing­ful ex­pe­ri­ences that cap­ti­vate users

Computer Arts - - Con­tents -

Laura Snoad gets the low-down on the lat­est vir­tual re­al­ity hard­ware and pro­jects, and ex­plores how cre­atives can best har­ness the medium

“AL­WAYS ASK WHY A PIECE SHOULD BE IN VR, AND WHY IT COULDN’T BE JUST A TV SHOW OR AN APP. THINK ABOUT THE CON­SUMER FIRST, AND DON’T BE SE­DUCED BY THE TECH­NOL­OGY”

The fi­nal months of 2016 were a hive of ac­tiv­ity in the world of VR. Fol­low­ing launches of the Face­book-owned Ocu­lus Rift and HTC Vive in the spring, PlayS­ta­tion VR un­veiled its epony­mous head­set in Oc­to­ber, Sam­sung Gear VR got an up­grade, and Google’s Day­dream View hit the shelves. What’s more, in the fi­nal days of Novem­ber, Mi­crosoft an­nounced that its HoloLens – an in­dus­try re­defin­ing self-con­tained wear­able that in­tel­li­gently reads the user’s en­vi­ron­ment and over­lays it with 3D holo­grams – was fi­nally avail­able for de­vel­op­ers, with a con­sumer launch ex­pected some time in 2017. If 2016 was a wa­ter­shed mo­ment in terms of the tech, then 2017 is when we’ll see the cre­ative po­ten­tial fully erupt.

For cre­atives work­ing in brand­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing, the pos­si­bil­i­ties of VR are sure to get pulses rac­ing. Not only do VR, AR and MR (mixed re­al­ity – the term Mi­crosoft uses to de­scribe its HoloLens en­vi­ron­ment) of­fer an un­par­al­leled op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide cus­tomers with ex­cit­ing rare or im­pos­si­ble ex­pe­ri­ences, or ed­u­cate them about a prod­uct or ser­vice in a dis­trac­tion-free 3D en­vi­ron­ment, but stud­ies have shown that view­ers’ feel­ings of en­gage­ment and em­pa­thy are much higher in im­mer­sive VR en­vi­ron­ments than when watch­ing a stan­dard 2D film cam­paign. On top of this, there’s huge PR po­ten­tial be­cause of the rel­a­tive nov­elty of the form. But work­ing in such new, un­ex­plored ter­ri­tory re­quires quite the men­tal shift. Be­cause of the viewer’s au­ton­omy, the av­er­age ap­proach to brand sto­ry­telling will wither and die in vir­tual re­al­ity. Plus, it’s ex­pen­sive. “Just be­cause you can, doesn’t mean you should,” points out Sol Rogers, founder of vir­tual re­al­ity agency REWIND. A VR ex­pe­ri­ence, he ar­gues, must of­fer some­thing valu­able that jus­ti­fies the medium. “Al­ways ask why a piece should be in VR, and why it couldn’t just be a TV show or an app. Think about the con­sumer first, and don’t be se­duced by the tech­nol­ogy.”

DIF­FER­ENT RE­AL­I­TIES

VR ex­pe­ri­ences can be roughly bro­ken down into three cat­e­gories: ac­tive, semi-ac­tive and pas­sive. Ac­tive VR does what it says on the tin: the viewer can in­ter­act with the en­vi­ron­ment, whether they are solv­ing puz­zles, killing bad­dies, draw­ing or fly­ing. A 360° video with hotspots where the user can choose to fol­low a spe­cific char­ac­ter or un­lock the next part of the ex­pe­ri­ence is con­sid­ered semi­ac­tive, while pas­sive VR is used to de­scribe 360° video where the viewer can turn their head to watch the ac­tion un­fold at any com­pass point, but can­not in­flu­ence what un­folds in front of them.

Know­ing what you want to cre­ate, and who you want to cre­ate it for will have a mas­sive im­pact on the plat­form you choose to de­sign for. At the top of the chain, there’s room-scale real-time en­gine VR – all singing, all danc­ing VR plat­forms that work by hook­ing up a head­set to a game en­gine, for ex­am­ple the HTC Vive, Ocu­lus Rift and PlayS­ta­tion VR. It’s here that in­ter­ac­tive, pro­cess­inghun­gry ex­pe­ri­ences work best. The next layer down is mo­bile VR – that’s plat­forms such as Sam­sung Gear VR, Google Day­dream and Google Card­board, which work by slot­ting a phone into a head­set (or in Card­board’s case, a cheap card­board viewer) and us­ing the phone to boot the ex­pe­ri­ence, with­out the need for wires.

In­ter­ac­tive con­tent can work here, but with much less power, and it’s mo­bile VR where 360° video is best used and pro­duced. The bot­tom of the lad­der – but not an area to be over­looked – is vir­tual re­al­ity out­side of the head­set, for ex­am­ple Face­book360 and YouTube360. Here, users can ex­plore a 360° en­vi­ron­ment on their phones, tablets or desk­tops with­out own­ing a head­set. “You can go up­stream very eas­ily, but down­stream is very dif­fi­cult,” states Rogers. “If you make a beau­ti­ful thing for HTC Vive, it’s a huge amount of pain to re­tool it for mo­bile plat­forms, and the same again to trans­form that into 360 video° – you will end up with sev­eral dif­fer­ent work­streams,” he ex­plains.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.