Casual virtual reality

The most interesting novelties presented at CES in the field of virtual reality were neither long-awaited, final version of Oculus Rift goggles, nor the avalanche of cheap, made of cardboard or plastic VR headsets matching different models of smartphones. The biggest surprise for me as a media representative was the prototype of VR lenses that can be affixed to a tablet. Is it how the future of hybrid, online press will look like? 

As expected, virtual reality has been one of the main topics at CES 2016, the huge consumer electronics event that was held in Las Vegas in early January. Compared to the previous year, a much larger number of exhibitors related to the VR industry (goggles and 360 cameras producers, movies and animation makers, as well as 3D sound technicians etc.) testifies to the fact that in the coming months and years the market will be flooded with both professional and amateur VR content and headsets. We can be sure that the VR is entering the market for good, and it is just the beginning of the revolution.

So far, thousands of media outlets have released tons of information about the two segments of the VR goggles and its dedicated content. First, many of them relate to high-end devices, now assigned to companies such as HTC, Sony, and Oculus, that also offer (or will offer in the following months) sophisticated accessories that enable users to move smoothly through the virtual space. Second, many journalists report for the cheapest VR sets, made of cardboard or plastic, that requires a smartphone, and work with a very simplified user interface. In both categories, I haven’t found any spectacular, groundbreaking news (except the retail price of Oculus Rift, which is 599 dollars, twice as high as expected). Fortunately, at the end of the day, I discovered that the third category of VR readers exists. Despite it is a huge WOW, it was presented without any spectacular and noisy show, and therefore, it was unnoticed by mainstream medias.

inVRse zoom credits Trend Nomad
The inVRse immersive viewer transforms a tablet device into a stereoscopic 3D display with integrated inertial tracking and a multi-touch surface for interaction and control.

Hardly anyone associated with the virtual reality industry has taken into account displaying VR content on a tablet. Who would want to wear a large, heavy screen on his or her face? Although at the first glance a tablet seems to be useless in terms of attaching this device to a virtual reality headset, one prototype and his co-creator convinced me at CES that in some cases it can (surprise, surprise!) make a lot of sense. I felt that this is the beginning of a new era in the development of digital newspapers and e-books.

inVRse David Nelson credits Trend Nomad
David Nelson is the Special Project Manager of the MxR Lab (it is a part of the Institute for Creative Technologies, founded by US Army in 1999 at the University of Southern California), where techniques and technologies to improve the fluency of human-computer interactions are explored. He comes to VR from the world of entertainment as a Producer and Director, having created award-winning content in the areas of documentaries, feature films, music videos and commercials. He has studied the art of storytelling for more than 20 years.

Researchers from the Mixed Reality (MxR) Lab showed at the IEEE organization booth their idea assuming that VR content does not have to be watched on more or less sophisticated headset, that usually cut-off a user from his environment. VR can be experienced in a subtly different way, in this case through the lens attached to the top of the tablet. Here a VR animation or 360-video is not the main point of a content, but it enriches the main message. A user who is reading a text on a tablet, from time to time can get closer his or her eyes to attached lenses to watch VR or 360 extras.

The project of goggles that are attachable to the upper part of a tablet is called “inVRse”, and the new, hybrid media format combining text, images and videos with VR animations, 360 videos and the touch interface is named “casual virtual reality”.

When a prototype of inVRse goggles attachable to the upper part of a tablet will be commercialized and enter the market, we will see a new, hybrid media format, that combines text, images, audio and 2D movies with VR content and 360 video.

If the idea presented by a MxR Lab team will find its place on the market, the VR animations and 360 videos will become integrated with a digital press, e-books and, among other online publications, tourist and hotel guides. Thus, the virtual reality experience will no longer be separated from other media, but it will go hand in hand with more traditional content displayed on tablets. This may be a good news for publishers, advertisers and an audience as well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wN35LbpymBw

To learn more details about the in VRse project, I encourage you to watch the video interview recorded at CES with David Nelson, Special Project Manager at MxR Lab. He claimed that in the near future the virtual reality will become an important part of journalism, but at the same time he pointed out that only some of the content will be transferred to the VR format. Moreover, he said that the commercialization of the inVRse project should take place within a year.

If you have any questions regarding the inVRse project, you can send them directly to David Nelson at dnelson@ict.usc.edu.

All photos and the video by TrendNomad.com.

www.mxrlab.com

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