Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Challenges of VR - by Rewind

At the Blue GFX Expo this year we heard about some of the Challenges of Virtual Reality in an excellent talk by Oliver Kibblewhite, Head of Special Projects at Rewind, a creative agency based in LondonOliver Kibblewhite, Head of Special Projects at Rewind, a creative agency based in London.

VR is something of a "Wild West" right now, a potentially huge field that has yet to be explored. It's not yet clear how VR will become commercially viable, or even in what medium. But it is surely clear that, at some point in the (not so distant) future, VR will be a huge part of the entertainment industry. So, what (according to Rewind) are the challenges of VR?

Oliver Kibblewhite of Rewind
1. What is the story?
What is the story you want to tell? VR can be used for all sorts of tasks, such as training, and simulation. But anyone wanting to use VR needs to ask themselves what the story is they want to tell. 

2. Why VR?
Does it actually help? The trouble with VR is "you can't hide anything in VR" - so beware of what you wish for.

3. Will the user follow the narrative? 
Traditional film-making is actually rather a good way to tell a story. VR has problems with the narrative because it's a user-driven experience, and the user won't necessarily follow the story you want to tell.

4. What do you call VR? 
There are many things we call VR, starting with entry-level technologies like Google Cardboard, and more sophisticated devices like the Oculus Rift. But all these different pieces of hardware provide different experiences. 

5. Who is your audience?
Who will want to see your VR experience? Right now, not that many people have VR headsets. We can make an amazing experience (which will likely be very expensive), which very few people will see.  Distribution is still a problem, outside of trade shows where the user can be supplied with the correct equipment.

6.  Does it really need to be filmed with a 360 camera? 
All this expensive high-tech kit is very problematic - do you really want to see your crew - for example - in the shot? With a 360 camera - you will see the camera man. Are you going to roto them out? If so, this will add massively to the expense of the project.

7. Data stitching
Stitching together the files involves the manipulation of massive quantities of data, involving huge files, and vast amounts of computing power.

8. Why do you want to enter the VR world? 
Are you just a viewer, looking around? Is it like Secret Cinema, where you are an extra within the space?

9. Can you move from one space to another? 
If so, what about motion sickness? Plenty of people experience motion sickness within the VR environment.

10 What about eye tracking? 
Eye Tracking can potentially be a good idea, as "you only have to render the bit you are looking at". The rest of the shot (outside our direct vision) can - in theory at least - be very low resolution. This is because "our peripheral vision isn't actually very good." Your brain thinks it sees everything within your full field of vision, but  it actually doesn't.

11. QA Testing. 
Try VR out on your Grandparents. This is important because "you can't assume that they [your audience] know how to use and enjoy the experience. Everything you do needs to be tested out, to make sure that ordinary consumers can use and enjoy it.

12. How are you going to show it to people?
What platform will you use to deliver it?

13. Who is going to pay for it? 
VR is currently "very expensive". The hardware manufacturers have a budget for content because, unsurprisingly, they want their platforms to be useful. They don't want to end up like Betamax - a great platform with too little content. Who else sponsors VR? The answer is "Government". For example, the Arts Council UK has a budget for VR.

14. Social Responsibility.
VR is powerful, and we need to be careful. People "may be traumatised by this experience" - and they can't cover their eyes - because they are wearing a headset. You are asking people to immerse themselves into an environment that you are creating. You don't want someone to get PTSD from a virtual experience. "VR can be amazing - and hopefully it will be". But we need to be careful what we create.

Oliver Kibblewhite is Head of Special Projects at Rewind, a creative agency based in London, specialising in VR.

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