Virtual reality has been a much sought after experience for the past 15 years. Despite the odd games arcade having an experimental device using VR technology, it's an otherwise difficult experience to get hold of. Chris Howatson, managing director of creative and digital agency CHE Proximity, believes we’re closer than we think. “Virtual reality for the masses is coming like a bullet train and could account for all digital video consumption within two years.”
Howatson is currently responsible for producing one of the initial Australian VR brand films in conjunction with the launch of the Mazda MX-5. He says this is all thanks to Google’s cheap VR kit called ‘Google Cardboard’ (costing just $10) along with Facebook’s more advanced Oculus Rift. The stage is set and we are on the cusp of exploding into an immersive experience of 360-degree viewing format.
The world over have been discussing the potential experience of living in a 360-degree video world and it now it would appears as if we're finally seeing light at the end of the 3D experience tunnel. This new 3D world will mean a new format is required for shooting this latest immersive experience. The main focus of a film’s scene (e.g. a car driving down a road) plus all of the surroundings have to be recorded with the 360-degree camera rigs so that the viewer can physically pivot to see different angles of the film.
The automotive and travel industries will be the first to utilise the VR technology, because companies operating within this space consider themselves to be ‘natural experience brands.’
Rumours are already flying around that Qantas are working on a VR project for in-flight experiences. Mazda on the other hand sees its latest fourth generation MX-5 roadster being the ideal fit for a new experience.
Alastair Doak, director of marketing at Mazda Australia commented on why he thinks VR will help propel Mazda forward and why other companies will be interested in it as well: “We need to sell the excitement and romance of a roadster and the open-top motoring, so a tool like 360 reality really talks to that generation of buyers. Its fortuitous for us.”
The company wants to help potential buyers live the experience of owning a small convertible sports car right from the very first time they view the Mazda website at home. This is in hope of getting them intrigued into taking a test drive. Mazda’s ambitions for the new MX-5 are big and you can expect to view their virtual reality experience this August 2015.
When previously we thought we were years away from having a cost effective system for the masses, all of a sudden the cost of VR has collapsed thanks to Google Cardboard. It costs between 50 cent and $10 depending on the configuration you choose to buy. Whilst simultaneously the cost of filming in VR is also drastically dropping due to Google’s investment in full-surround cameras called ‘Jump’.
You may have also noticed Google’s YouTube has begun to allow ‘360 view’ video uploads as part of its new rollout. RedBull for example are already trialling the technology with their Formula 1 team.
Mr Howatson continued to mention Google as leading the charge, “Google is essentially the leader by enabling essentially every smartphone user a pretty immersive 360-degree experience. Compared to Oculus Rift, it makes it very accessible.”
VR has been discussed for years whilst its availability has been very limited to the gaming world. However, Google is leading the campaign to make VR cheap and as a result are winning the race so far to secure the first horde of eager customers and bringing VR into reality for the masses.
Don’t expect the big TV in the living room to become VR-ready anytime soon though, as the technology requires motion sensors, like the ones built into your smartphone, or a dedicated headset like Oculus Rift. Also, there are limitations to when VR will be experienced. You won't want to be the first person on the train making the morning commute to strap-on a Cardboard VR headset and start spinning around in your seat looking at the different things in your virtual world.