During The Near Future conference in Washington, D.C., last week, attendees got an up, close, and personal sneak peek of some of the unique virtual reality and mixed reality experiences that are either in their infancy or coming to a broader market later this year. As exhibitors helped attendees try out the interactive encounters for themselves, it was evident how far 3D demonstrations have come in recent years to offer users a smoother and more immersive experience.
The line at the Birdly exhibit never seemed to die down, as many wanted to try out the bird flight simulator that takes people on a virtual tour of New York City. But what makes the experience a little different from the previous VR experiences we are used to is the idea that the control resides with the user. The user controls the flight and chooses the landmarks he or she wants to see, whether that be finding Madison Square Garden or Central Park. “The reason you don’t get motion sickness is the same reason you don’t get motion sickness when you drive a car, and it’s because you are in complete control,” explained Andrew Demarest, a demo representative for Birdly. “We have a lot of people ask about why it’s not like a video game where you are forced through a certain path, and it’s because the moment you take control from the user, that’s when motion sickness can come in.”
Similarly, Positron’s demo of the Voyager Cinematic VR Chair excludes a lot of the motion sickness that users tend to complain about when trying out a new VR experience. Voyager uses gentle motion and haptics to offer viewers visual storytelling through a full-motion VR theater experience. Positron, a VR technology studio in Los Angeles, works with studios to help them exhibit their VR experiences. “Twenty to 25 percent of people feel discomfort when they are going through a VR experience, but we’ve pretty much eliminated motion sickness. It has to do with the motion pairing with what you are seeing visually. This isn’t an amusement park ride,” said Positron Co-Founder Jennifer Rundell.
With the motion, content creators are able to guide the audience through points of interest. “We see this as a tool for content creators to help provide cues and to move people through the experience and tell a story,” added Rundell. And while in-home VR experiences have been taking off in recent years, particularly in the gaming sector, Rundell predicts that out-of-home VR experiences will become popular very soon. As more studios like Positron create exhibition spaces for VR, and as more VR entertainment centers open up in big cities, creators will bring the content that audiences are craving, pushing the medium forward.
Big studios have already started bringing this VR cinematic experience to mass audiences. As 20th Century Fox Futurist Ted Schilowitz showcased during his presentation, the Fox Innovation Lab released “The Martian VR Experience” last year, an interactive and immersive journey that takes viewers through the perspective of Mark Watney, the astronaut from “The Martian” blockbuster. The trick to providing a great VR experience, Schilowitz told attendees, is to involve the viewers, as opposed to having them just watch.
Then in his demo on the Microsoft HoloLens, Taqtile founder Dirck Schou, Jr., took attendees through HoloMaps, a table top experience that provides a 3D view of a city landscape from multiple perspectives, and with menu add-ons that display data such as real-time weather and tweets that move with you as you look around. The HoloLens works by having outward facing cameras that are constantly mapping a room, grabbing data and creating meshes in which the viewer can program holograms to interact, blending the real world and virtual reality.
During his presentation on stage, Schou, Jr., explained how this type of technology will be an integral component to smart cities. For example, in an emergency situation, personnel will be able to use the HoloLens to see the path of a tornado, or the water level in the events of a flood. In an interview with NCTA, Schou, Jr., said that Taqtile already has a number of customers using the technology, including the Cleveland Cavaliers looking to upgrade their arena, and the U.S. Air Force which is using it to help their engineers and technicians learn how to make repairs. “To date, we have gained experience in the x-axis and the y-axis. This whole concept adds the z-axis, because now we have 3D data we can look it,” said Schou, Jr. “Though we’re not quite sure how to absorb and use it yet, but there are a lot of companies that are in development with these headsets. It’s good for the whole industry. The more people that build this technology, the more the industry will start to adopt these experiences.”
We have a feeling Schou, Jr., is right, and there’s a lot more to come this year and next.
Check back here soon for more on what was said and showcased at The Near Future conference.
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