Virtual reality becoming a greater part of reality A visitor tries Sony's "Project Morpheus" virtual reality headset. At left, Cal Arts student Alexander Hager watches a student project at the Vortex Dome in Los Angeles (AP photo / Reuters)
Virtual reality becoming a greater part of reality
Lexile

Virtual reality is creeping into our world.

Once seen mostly as a tool for alien-blasting gamers, now movie studios, television producers and artists are adopting the technology. It immerses people in faraway realms by using bulky goggles, house-sized domes and smartphones.

Entering a virtual world means that users who look left, right, up or behind experience an alternate environment, even when they're sitting in a theater or on a couch.

It means a horror movie can be promoted with a haunted house tour that features a villain who can spring from anywhere. Or a shark documentary enhanced by the sensation that you're being circled by predators.

"What's better for jump scares than, like, turning your head and it's right in your face?" says Matt Lipson, senior vice president of digital marketing at Focus Features.

Virtual reality may not appear at your local multiplex soon, but it's being used to lure you there.

Universal's Focus Features recently launched its first virtual-reality experience for movies, promoting the upcoming release of its "Insidious: Chapter 3" horror flick. It's driving a truck around the country, inviting fans to wear virtual-reality goggles. It's also sent out thousands of movie-branded Google Cardboard kits, which fold around smartphones to turn them into primitive VR viewers. Fans can download the app from Google Play, or the App Store, to make it work.

In the "Insidious" VR experience, viewers sit in a haunted house across from a psychic. Various scares appear from the right and left and, in the end, there is a close-up encounter with a bad guy known as the Bride in Black.

Lionsgate used a similar approach for its "Insurgent" movie. It applied VR to try to widen the film's fan base beyond young women, to male fans of action movies. Using VR was one way to appeal to gamers, who are mostly men and are expected to be the first buyers of VR headsets.

VR remains the realm of promotion. But content created now or for future films could also build value for home video products as more VR headsets are sold, Lipson says.

And the number of outlets for virtual reality is increasing.

Oculus VR, the company Facebook bought for $2 billion and a leader in the VR headset market, is expected to start shipping a consumer version early next year. It's already sold 150,000 goggles as test units for content developers. Samsung, meanwhile, is selling Gear VR, which works with Galaxy S6 smartphones. Sony will release a consumer version of its Project Morpheus, which connects to its PlayStation 4, in the first half of next year.

Oculus's goal is to get headsets into as many hands as possible, says co-founder and head of product Nate Mitchell. The company set up a division of experimental filmmakers called Oculus Story Studio to help other filmmakers learn how to create VR video.

"Our goal is making the Rift (headset) and virtual reality affordable," says Mitchell, adding that he hopes it "becomes a technology that truly changes the world."

Facebook is testing what CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls "spherical video," or a flat representation of immersive content that could be navigable by mouse on its website. Google's YouTube launched support for "360-degree video" on Chrome browsers and Android phones in March and is providing VR camera rigs for its partners at its six studios. Fold-up Google Cardboard units can be bought online for as little as $2.46.

Discovery Communications is also planning to launch VR content under the Discovery Virtual brand in August.

Teams are already shooting off the Bahamas in preparation for "Shark Week" in July, says Conal Byrne, Discovery's senior vice president of digital media. Fans of the series are used to watching the circling predators from inside a protective cage. But virtual reality would heighten the fear factor, as sharks could cruise by while your head is turned elsewhere.

Another virtual frontier to cross is creating environments for groups, not just individuals, in the same way that theaters provide a community experience.

That possibility was tested out on a recent evening, when eight art school students gathered under a dome in downtown Los Angeles. They were preparing an immersive show projected on a 19-foot-high hemisphere.

Student Jack Turpin used video game software to create a psychedelic world of rolling mountains, beaches and palm trees. Using a controller, he transported students through the environment as if they were riding in a tour bus with a bubble glass roof. Student Jackie Tan spelled out words, forcing viewers to glance around the dome, then gave them a bug's eye-view of ice cream melting over the top of them.

It's all part of creating a new cinematic language that doesn't just play out on the screen in front of you, but is interactive and immersive, said Prof. Hillary Kapan, who put on the class for the California Institute of the Arts.

"What kind of elements do you use instead of an icon on a computer? How do you interact with that world?" he says. "We're just in the beginning stages of understanding."

Critical thinking challenge: What barriers prevent everyone from experiencing virtual reality virtually everywhere?

Assigned 21 times


COMMENTS (10)
  • Tdoles430
    6/05/2015 - 10:52 a.m.

    Virtual Reality is pretty cool. Earlier before they had machines like this they had something called the oculars rift which simulates actual reality but in an animated version so this steps up the way we see things and how we are able to develop new technology

  • mackenziemulick13
    6/05/2015 - 01:05 p.m.

    I think its amazing that you can just put goggles on and watch something, but with the outside effects it makes it almost real! Its super cool that they have this kind of technology now! My hope is if they can put a movie into goggles then soon there will be things like inventions that create a better economy and cures for diseases we have to rid of. Anyway some research says that if this becomes reality and affordable then this could become the beginning of the 22nd generation! The technology they can put into a cardboard box for your smart phone is remarkable! This could be the future of the world!

  • pp2000boa
    6/05/2015 - 01:08 p.m.

    I wonder if the concept of virtual reality would work like in SAO, but not only for gaming. I wonder if the effects in that reality would affect the reality right here?

  • emileec711
    6/05/2015 - 02:18 p.m.

    Virtual reality is very interesting. The fact that they can make technology that puts you in another environment or world is amazing. when you put the goggles on it makes you believe that you are in another world this is a great tool for gamers or movie maker am concerned about is what ig you are running and you run into a wall?.

  • Time-Pav
    6/09/2015 - 10:03 a.m.

    I remember doing something like this! It was really fun and realistic! In it I was driving a car. Then I crashed! It was pretty cool.

  • AminataS.
    6/09/2015 - 11:23 a.m.

    The technology has not been made for resale yet or at least isn't affordable for everyone. The closest they've gotten is the google fold up cardboard and its very cheap and available to almost everyone. the barrier is mostly affordability and if they can accomplish this then nothing can prevent everyone from experiencing virtual technology.

  • Jake7010
    6/10/2015 - 12:15 a.m.

    This is going to be apart of everyday live in like 30 years but the problem is its going to be $600 just for one headset. Thats for one part out of 3 I can think of. It's very hard to think about this in school yes in gaming this will be great and i can't wait to use it. But like i said $600 and that not including the PC. So its a ways away don't get to hyped for it

  • BMegan-Cas
    6/18/2015 - 11:28 a.m.

    The Virtual Reality headset is really cool, and it would be awesome for everyone to feel like they're a part of their favorite movie or game. But the headset is too expensive for a lot of people, so many people may not be able to buy it.

  • Christophersoto
    7/01/2015 - 09:08 p.m.

    I think that the virtual reality with those goggles, is a funny tool, that us carries to others worlds, as a enchanted house, or a rolling mountain.
    I also believe that it can be a service advantage to the entertainment and film, and allows a better experience when using the glasses.
    The problem with this is how new things are always very expensive, and not allow everyone could enjoy the entertainment. Besides entertainment, it can serve for other things, for example, to teach in schools, universities, etc; as it would be a very modern and fun way to learn, so this proved very beneficial for education.
    I also think that this can distract us from reality, taking away valuable time of our lives, even obsession with these devices cause in people. It would be very dangerous.
    Hopefully these technological advances serve to good things and not otherwise.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    4/11/2016 - 10:49 p.m.

    The people might have been looking forward into creating virtual reality which it would soon becoming a greater part in reality which people would soon be experiencing things that they have never seen before. The virtual reality would need some things that would be able to make a person to be experiencing reality that they would be seeing around them and think that they are actually inside. The people that might not have been able to experience things that they hadn't been able to experience when they hadn't been able to go somewhere that they see virtually. People would be able to experience something that they had never done before or went to before which people might have been able to use virtually reality to gamers that would make them think that they are actually inside the game they are playing.
    Critical Thinking Question: What barriers prevent everyone from experiencing virtual reality virtually everywhere?
    Answer: The barrier that prevents everyone from experiencing virtual reality virtually everywhere is that they wouldn't be wandering around away from the place where they never seen before and go somewhere else to explore the new place.

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