Shortly after the acquisition of Oculus was announced, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg made a spot-on statement in April 2014 to Wired: “When you put on the headset and you try it out, you really do feel like you’re there within seconds. Then you realize that the system that’s delivering this experience is using commodity hardware with cellphone screens, and can be manufactured for a low number of hundreds of dollars, and this can be in a lot of people’s hands. When you think about what it takes to build a mainstream computing platform, communication is probably the most important use case and we bring a lot of experience to that.”
For those of us who experienced Web 1.0 in the late 1990s, there does seem to be a bit of déjà vu and VR could very well end up being Web 3.0 as the subtext of Zuckerberg’s statement suggests. If you’re still a skeptic, look no further than the fact that major brands are dipping their toes into VR, as laid out in AdAge:
“The ad industry had started to play in the space. In September, agency Firstborn brought Brooklyn patrons of Mountain Dew’s Dew Tour on a spin through Vegas skate parks, alongside pros Paul Rodriguez and Sean Malto. The following month, Havas teamed with director Patrick Sherman, of production company M ss ng P eces, and VR pioneer Felix & Paul Studios to bring the Most Interesting Man in the World’s home to life for Dos Equis’ annual “Masquerade” event.”
The same AdAge piece summarizes the signs that VR is going have an exciting year in 2015: “before you start dismissing virtual reality as the stuff of gamer nerds, or the next Second Life, think again. In the last month alone, top creators from the entertainment and ad worlds and major tech companies have begun showing their willingness to invest significantly in this new form of storytelling to help ensure the medium will flourish and evolve.”
This trifecta of tech companies, brands and content creators all turning their sights towards VR with significant focus all point towards VR as the “now” platform in the same way that the web was in 1994–95.
The week of Feb. 20th has been replete with exciting announcements in VR:
- Tuesday, the Apple VR headset patent application: via Techcrunch: “Apple has been awarded a patent by the USPTO (via AppleInsider) for a head-mounted virtual reality set that uses an iPhone as the display and computing component.”
- Also Tuesday, Facebook casually announced that they were working on VR apps: via Re/Code: “'I mean, virtual reality is pretty cool. We’re working on apps for VR,' he said to Re/codesenior editor Peter Kafka. “Have you used some of the film demos inside of VR?” Cox continued. He cited an example in which the headset wearer envisions being inside a Blue Angel fighter jet, and another VR experience that sets the viewer inside a yurt in Mongolia. “You realize, when you’re in it, that you’re looking at the future, and it’s going to be awesome. When you’re in Facebook, you’re just sending around these bits of experience—a photo, a video, a thought,” Cox said, whereas with VR, you could be “sending a fuller picture.” “So will people be able to make virtual reality content?” Kafka asked. “Totally. You’ll do it, Beyoncé will do it,” Cox replied.”
- Wednesday, Hollywood and VR continued its honeymoon: via Deadline: “Lionsgate says that Insurgent?—?Shatter Reality will work on the SamsungGear VR. It will run four-minutes and offer audiences “a fully-immersive, 360° narrative experience” based on the upcoming Divergent Series: Insurgent, including actors Kate Winslet, Miles Teller and Mekhi Phifer. Lionsgate’s film will be in theaters on March 20. The companies will take the VR experience on tour beginning February 27 to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin and San Francisco.”
- Also on Wednesday, French startup Catopsys reached its $100K goal for its Immersis product, summed by Wired as “a cross between the Pixar lamp’s evil twin and a tripod from the War of the Worlds. Its single fish-eye lens beams a 180 degree VR experience into an interior space. Instead of a pair of small, stereoscopic images, your entire field of view is filled with immersive scenes from a virtual world."
In my opinion, the next logical steps for VR are much the same as they were for emerging media in previous cycles eg in the late 1990s for Web 1.0 and in the 2007–10 social media phase:
Solidifying the creative tools that will allow the VR medium to flourish by empowering creators. JauntVR and others are working on these tools, from 360 video capture to post-production.
Going from the current experimentation phase to the full-on “it’s business” phase by combining brand investment, creative experiments and consumer education.
More articles from Frederic: