GearVR crowd in cinema

Series of Use Cases: Virtual Reality in Media

Media is the natural habitat of Virtual Reality.

Virtual Reality in Music

This technology has formed part of experimental sound displays and sound installations. Another use is virtual reality musical instruments which the person can interact with these instruments as a new type of performance or to create new compositions.

Virtual Reality in Books

Virtual reality was born in fictional stories such as William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Mona Lisa Overdrive or Neil Stephenson’s Snowcrash as well as Orson Scott Card’s Enders Game.

Virtual Reality in Art

There are several artists who use virtual reality to explore certain ideas or concepts. They create a three dimensional environment as a form of communication with the audience, but also to create “impossible” Artwork like the Escher Sceneries.

My favorite is virtual Street Art that has a lot of potential.

Virtual Reality in Television

It is often used to illustrate the concept of being trapped within the machine (or in this case, cyberspace), or as a form of advanced technology.

Some episodes of Doctor Who, Red Dwarf and Star Trek: The Next Generation utilise virtual reality technology. One example is the holodeck as seen in Star Trek which enables the person to experience any situation they so wish.

Virtual Reality in Cinema

Virtual reality is very common in science fiction movies. TRON was one of the first movies to use virtual reality as a plot element. The main characters were taken from reality and transported into a virtual world inside a computer. This is not 100% like the virtual reality we know today but the concept of another reality inside of a computer reminds the same.

Other examples are:

  • The Matrix series
  • The Lawnmower Man
  • Vanilla Sky
  • The Thirteenth Floor
  • eXistenZ
  • Ready Player One
  • Johnny Mnemonic

And many more. The list will continue indefinitely due the current VR enthusiasm and as the ideas behind virtual reality are fully explored in film.

Second Life’s Film Festival

Second Life, partnered some time ago with the 48 Hour Film Project to produce the first film festival to take place in a virtual world.

The participants of the festival had to create a film set totally in the world of Second Life. According to 48HFP style, they were given a genre, a character and a dialogue, which had to be incorporated into their films. The whole work (to write and to edit) had to be completed within 48 hours.

The winners of the ‘virtual film festival’ were given the opportunity to have their films shown at the real-life 48 Hour Film Project event.

But what about the usage of VR for entertainment and cinema itself?

  • Taking part in complex music VR experiences (to be a singer or a musician or a listener)
  • Full immersion in cinema action using visual, aural and haptic interfaces
  • Reproducing exotic travel daydreams and extra terrestrial space floats
  • Experience the beauty of nature or distant and inaccessible locations
  • Exploring immersive 360 videos and photos
  • Collateral immersing into VR videos and experiences

But there is more: Not just using a VR headset to watch movies and exploring 360° videos.

360° stitched image of a museum

Far more than “just 3D or 4D” where you will be able to explore the scenery if the plot starts to be boring. Where you are not forced to watch, but maybe to interact? Before, tech limitations needs to be solved. Don’t misunderstand, the technology exists already, but the cameras are expensive ($250k+) and the resulting file sizes are huge (terabytes per minute). It needs massive cost reduction, bandwidth increase and advances in compression technology before producers can make volumetric video and consumers can watch it. Also some improvements on the HMD’s side are necessary, like becoming really wireless, easy to use without a hard core gaming unit, eye tracking and how your eyes’ position is moving in space. Just try to turn your head sideways or look up or down and you will see that the center of rotation is somewhere inside the head. We don’t pivot around our eyes. Some people don’t notice, some become sick.

All of this is in progress. Now that Paramount Pictures or Babelsberg Studios started cooperations with Tech Companies to invest into and to explore volumetric video technology, we can be curious and thrilled.