VR World 2017 – A Round Up: The Next Best Things
I’m staring at my laptop screen, expecting things to happen to me. But they’re not, and I’m starting to doubt they ever will. Perhaps it’s time to make some sense of what we saw, experienced, and learnt from a day of all things virtual at the 2017 VR World gathering in West London.
Let’s start with…
The coverage was broad and occasionally unexpected, ranging from: gaming, animation, construction, navigation, medical, marketing, immersive theatre, mobility, music, architecture, training, education as well as certain ideology-centric organisations (such as Advir) that are angled towards holding this burgeoning world to a higher ethical standard than those that came before.
The details of the crucial role advertising will play in VR across all of these industries is still being worked out. It will exist out of necessity. The fun part is in finding an immersive way to make it come to life.
For context’s sake…
The future potential of VR?
In most cases, the discussion quickly turned away from the products in front of us to their future potential. Of what the technology could, or will, one day be.
It was like playing in a room full of very bright toddlers who all clearly showed an exceptional disposition for learning, and so all the parents chatted pridefully of what the thing they made may one day grow up to be and do, yet the entire time it was apparent that none of the parents knew what the world might look like, or what jobs that world may necessitate or facilitate, when that time finally came around.
This, I think, is the most accurate way to describe the current tone of the VR world. And it’s by no means a negative thing. That we do not yet fully understand the scope of this technological space, means simply that those thinking in the right way have unlimited potential to define the space by doing what no one has done before.
VR in Events
Live Nation have revolutionised the commerciality of 360 and VR experiences. By offering audiences access to the inaccessible (like placing them alongside their favourite artist as they prepare for a show), Live Nation are taking fans where they’ve never been able to go, allowing people to connect and empathise with different cultures and ways of life.
This is one of the truest examples of social VR, used to connect people by bringing them together over a shared and breathtaking experience.
Last year, Jaguar launched their first all-electric car with a fully interactive social VR experience. Unveiled simultaneously in two continents (LA/UK), this event has instigated an electric gearshift in the mindset of the industry in terms of what a launch event can be.
It’s no longer good enough to simply think big. Instead, brands must think differently to shine. And as we’ve seen, the untouched waters of VR offers vast potential for brands to do just that.
It’s all about…
Immersive VR Experiences
The quality of immersion continues to improve as new technologies arise. To fully engage audiences, the quality of the experience needs to be exceptional. Here’s some indication of where the industries at, and where it needs to go…
Movement capture – Vicon Shōgun
Vicon Shōgun movement capture technology now boasts incredibly accuracy, with further detail being limited only by rendering capacity. The potential of this tech within animation, gaming, and film is huge.
As the quality grows ever closer to base reality, the role of the director is set to become more prevalent. Viewpoints will become more malleable, stitching kinks will be worked out, and both immersion and user engagement will soar. Now it’s just about finding the best applications for it to thrive in the public consciousness.
Real Estate – PresenceWare
This is one of the first truly practical applications of VR so far. With incredible clarity and affordability, PresenceWare lets you experience and explore a property you want to buy from anywhere. This is an example where depth-of-immersion doesn’t necessarily need to improve. It’s simply a cheap way to make an industry much simpler. It’s all about understanding the level of immersion required for your purposes. Too much could be superfluous and needlessly expensive. Too little will simply fail to engage on a larger scale.
You need to find the perfect balance between medium, message and audience.
And then there was…
Storytelling in VR
Chapter 1: For VR’s sake
Luckily, everyone who spoke about VR and storytelling – whether it was Patrick Falconer, Executive Director of The New York Times or our very own co-founder Matt Beveridge – instilled the idea that only certain stories could, and should, be told in VR. Suggesting that at every stage the question, ‘Why immerse?’, should be posed.
This shared approach is quite telling about the nature of the industry in its infancy. Essentially, is VR necessary for what you’re trying to say, if it isn’t, then perhaps another medium may be the way to go.
VR for VR’s sake is being sidelined. And rightfully so.
In essence, this is the only real example of an industry that has no baggage, that has no pre-dating substructure on which it relies. There are those, such as film, which are assumed to be natural ancestors to it, which in a way they are, but only in an evolutionary sense, in that they were necessary to get us here, not that they should necessarily be a part of it as we move forward.
Time after time it was said that the future of storytelling in VR would be better served if film and its siblings were forgotten entirely. Only then would the real progression within the VR space be achieved.
And this is true. To date, the best VR experiences are those that capture, through craft, a specific kind of empathy. There is no formula to achieve this, no rules to follow. It’s about experimentation with craft to trick the mind of the user into believing it is elsewhere. This will require new ideas, new methods of craft and performance, new approaches using new angles and new perspectives in order to get right. It is simply that we do no yet fully know what right is. Only that we must keep pushing creative in order to find out.
So what’s the next chapter?
First of all, chapter probably isn’t the right word. That’s again falling into old tropes of linear storytelling. The VR space is malleable and non-linear, and we have the pleasure of defining what it becomes.
We have the opportunity to do VR, AR, MR as we, collectively, want to. And now, in its youth, is the time to sculpt the beginnings of what kind of formats we want them to be as they grow older, in both its aesthetical and ethical make-up.
Ultimately, no one quite knows what they are yet. We are simply at the beginning of the slow process of learning what they aren’t. Yet, with so much progress being made in so many areas, it’s bound to be an extremely interesting and exciting journey forward as we unearth what’s hiding in the stitches of our collective imagination.