VR - "Seeing A Different World"
At its core, a VR device is a large screen with a motion sensor.
When the user moves her head, the motion sensor tells the computer to move the content around the user in a way that correlates with the user’s movement, so their brain is convinced the motion happened in a virtual space. There are many components that make the experience more immersive, such as controllers that mimic hands (sometimes even special gloves), positional sound that mimics how sound travels in the real world, etc., but even a “simple” VR system without advanced components can do an amazing job at delivering a fantastic experience.
From a creative perspective, VR gives storytellers the power to challenge three core questions that the user asks themselves; “Who am I?”, “Where am I?” and “What do I need to do?”.
- Who am I? – A VR experience can place a user as different characters (A superhero, a monster, a dinosaur, etc.), different perspectives (a giant or a dwarf), or even different bodies (opposite gender, child/adult body, etc.). This unlocks huge opportunities to deliver a deeper message about the user’s perception of herself.
- Where am I? – Similarly, VR has the power to transport the user to anywhere in the world and beyond. In a demo shown a couple of years ago, the high fidelity digital environment of a mountain ledge was so photo real and convincing, it made users with a fear of heights actually shiver, refusing to take a step forward!
- What do I need to do? – We, as storytellers, can set objectives for our users by setting a purpose to the VR experience. We can challenge the user to save someone, defuse a bomb or playfully throw virtual snowballs.
There are two types of VR content:
- Passive 360 videos – we’ve all seen 360 videos on YouTube or Facebook. VR headsets can also play 360 videos, which is a much better experience compared to watching on a (comparably) tiny smartphone screen. This is an effective format for relatively low-cost VR content in education, training and travel applications. Created similarly to traditional (video) production - including pre-production (creative, storyboarding, etc), production (film crew or CGI animators and artists) and post-production (edit, sound, etc.) – the output of this process is a special format of video file, called spherical video, which can be played on any compatible video player (e.g. YouTube, Facebook, as well as offline players within VR headsets).
- Interactive Content – This highly immersive and engaging content is what true VR aficionados are after. There is nothing that can’t be built with interactive VR content – games, training applications, educational experiences…you name it. It’s developed much like any computer software development, meaning a crew of creative geeks coding away, along with graphic designers, game designers, 3D artists, UI/UX experts, and more. These experiences are built for a specific hardware platform (i.e. VR headsets), although common development tools make it easier (and cost-effective) to port from one headset to the other, in a “build once, deploy everywhere” framework.
Next time: We’ll cover best practices for each technology and when it makes sense to build for Smartphones vs. high end devices (both AR and VR).