Virtually everywhere – VR and immersive experiences

Demonstration of virtual reality (VR)

Picture: Knight Center for Journalism @ Flickr

In the last year virtual reality has clawed its way out of the ‘trough of disillusionment’ and begun its ascent of the ‘slope of enlightenment’. Well, that’s according to Garner’s much-cited hype cycle for emerging technologies.

What it seems to mean, certainly in recent months, is that virtual reality is pretty much everywhere as far as media and technology efforts go.

It’s almost as if Jamirouqui missed his calling as a twinkle-toed Nostradamus when he sang two decades ago ‘future’s made of virtual insanity now’ – if only he hadn’t suggested in the same song that we’d all be living underground. (Though, with current political changes, there’s still time for that too.)

But back to the current reality and one of the most recent moves in VR was the announcement by Facebook last month that VR is one of three areas it will be focusing on as part of its long-term roadmap (the other two being artificial reality and ‘connectivity’).

“In VR, image and video processing software powered by computer vision is improving immersive experiences and helping to support hardware advances,” noted Facebook’s chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer.

Clearly the company’s $2bn acquisition of virtual reality technology firm Oculus VR in 2014 gives it more than a passing interest in the area, but it’s not hard to see media and tech interests alike heading in this direction.

The BBC recently launched virtual reality film The Turning Forest, a fairly tale it’s making available for free on Google’s new virtual reality tool Daydream. It’s all part of the Corporation’s drive to explore emerging technology and as part of this the tale has been given a ‘spatial soundtrack’, which when heard through head phones will apparently make it an even more immersive experience. (It’s all about the binaural sound, since you ask.)

But the Beeb’s is far from being the only entertainment use of VR, and again this appears to be gathering pace – perhaps for the climb up Gartner’s slope of enlightenment.

From Abba to Avenged Sevenfold there’s no shortage of musicians looking to get in on VR. The godmother of them all must surely be Bjork, tickets for whose immersive VR album/exhibition at Somerset House are currently sold out.

I’ll leave the last word on this post to The Guardian. Following the publication in April of its first VR story – 6×9, which presents the experience of solitary confinement – the newspaper noted:

The next six months are of crucial importance for the future of VR, if products such as Oculus Rift are to avoid being remembered as yesterday’s tomorrow.

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