Tag Archives: VR

Five consumer tech trends spotted at IFA fairs

Cheap home appliances connected to the Internet will be linked to the development of many – rather not so cheap – online subscription services, including those ordered through home robots using voice interface. After IFA 2016 fairs it is quite clear what kind of household appliances may become the standard over the next decade, even though today they still may look like quite futuristic.

Internet of Things – or, better to say: Internet of household appliances – closely associated with development of businesses based on online shopping and delivery services, voice interface, devices that provide a sense of self-sufficiency, and accessories of virtual reality beyond the VR-these goggles – these are five trends spotted at IFA fairs that run in early September in Berlin.

 

1. The high price of cheap Internet of Things

 

A. – Every device that we connect to the electricity grid, will be very soon connected to the internet as well. There will be also gadgets and devices that will go online without us, the consumers, even knowing about that – tells Mikko Hyppönen, Chief Research Officer at F-Secure at IFA+ Summit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxQtW6VwJRk

– This could be really simple devices such as a toaster or a lightbulb. [Manufacturers] will do that to gather information about the usage, to gather analytics about how much our devices are being used, and where they are being used. [They want to know for marketing purpose whether they] have more customers toasting bread on the East side of Berlin or on the West side of Berlin – adds Mikko Hyppönen.

Not all devices will go online with a benefit to consumers. Some of them will go online not to benefit us, but to benefit their manufacturers.

– Why would anybody like to hack my fridge? Hackers are not interested in my fridge or a toaster, but they are interested in the network that they are connected to. Hackers do it to steal something. When you have a typical network, a home or an office network, it is typically well secured. And then an employee brings to an office an IoT coffee maker and connects it to the Wi-Fi. That is the weakest point in the corporate network. In the future, remember not only to patch your computer, phone and tablet. Remember to also patch your lightbulb – concludes Mikko Hyppönen.

 

B. – From the business point of view, we will see any non-connected product as a lost business opportunity – tells David Cronström (on the video below, first from the right), Head of Innovation/Connectivity, Electrolux, on the panel session titled ”Smart World: Home Appliances”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qnba33cidJY

– It looks like the value of the connected consumer compared to the not-connected one is twice higher. If this assumption becomes real, we can imagine that some companies will release products that are much cheaper than non-connected versions or even for free – tells Cyril Brignone (in the centre), CEO at Arrayent.

 

2. Merging products with services

 

A. At some markets, there are washing machines that can automatically place an order for a detergent, as well as refrigerators connected to an online supermarket. Now, it is time to merge an oven with IoT and home delivery services. But instead of ordering food from the control panel of an oven, it is about programming the kitchen device from an external mobile app which is an online grocery store and a cookbook in one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ko4RWa0BIIE

Bosch announced at IFA to cooperate with HelloFresh, an online deli offering a regular supply of fresh food. Every box containing the right proportions of ingredients includes recipes. Printouts are, of course, also available on HelloFresh mobile app.

Soon, every recipe available in the HelloFresh app will also include a one-click button to program the Bosch connected oven. The kitchen appliance will heat up to a temperature perfectly matched to a dish from the recipe and then will work for an appropriate time.

 

B. It came out that a direct collaboration with delivery services is also as a business opportunity for Daimler, the owner of Smart car brand. Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Managers at Daimler AG announced the start of “Ready to Drop” service provided in cooperation with DHL.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0l-MPF13ELY

An order placed online with “Ready to Drop” option will be delivered by DHL courier directly to the trunk of our parked Smart car (or picked-up from it if we want to return something).

You can use your car as a personal mobile mailbox – tells Dr. Dieter Zetsche in his keynote.

The courier will open doors by the application using a one-use code. At the beginning of the “Ready to Drop” service will be available in Stuttgart, Germany, and then will start in Cologne and Berlin. Next year, the service will be also launched in Mercedes cars.

 

3. In-home robots with the voice interface

 

A. Visitors of Bosch and Siemens booths (both companies belong to BSH) could meet Mykie, a concept of a smart kitchen assistant.

mykie-bsh-credits-trendnomad

Mykie responds to the user’s voice by means of voice recognition. It listens to users and answers their simple questions about the weather or the latest stock market prices. When communicating with the user, the robot uses his voice and head movements, as well as simple facial expressions and varying light signals to express his ”emotions”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8QYF1vYyXY

The user can use Mykie to conveniently control the entire range of home appliances functions. Mykie knows, for example, what’s stored inside the connected fridge, and how much longer the cake still has to bake in the oven.

Alternatively, additional services such as recipe ideas or suggestions from online cooking shows can also be called up. If ingredients are still missing, they can be ordered online via Mykie and delivered directly. Mykie sends the recommended settings from the recipe straight to the connected appliances.

 

B. Sony is another company that showed a prototype of a cute-voice-controlled-robot with mesmerising eyes.

Sony’s Xperia Agent is going to be not only a digital assistant like Siri and Alexa, that answers simple questions and lets you complete tasks like checking your calendar and making phone calls. By being connected to a sound system, a TV, and a coffee machine, Xperia Agent is able to play music (play the video above to see how it dances!), display movie trailers, and, by combining the robot with Nestlé Japan, even order a coffee.

The date of launching final versions of Mykie or Xperia Agent on the consumer market was not given.

 

4. Illusive self-sufficiency

 

A. Grundig HerbGarden is a prototype of a kitchen appliance that enables users to grow fresh and organic herbs at their own home. Indoors and without pesticides.

HerbGarden features three sets of growing chambers and a LED light box. Through a mobile app, the user can monitor and control the humidity, as well as track what herbs are growing, when the last harvest was, approximate harvest time for each item, its temperature, and the remaining water levels. It also allows owners to perfectly grow the amount of herbs needed, with the security of knowing exactly when harvesting is.

 

B. Some time ago household appliances that can be programmed in advance to work at night, when the price of electricity is lower, became standard. Now the trend is reversed.

siemens-flexstart-credits-trendnomad

With the growing popularity of home renewable energy installations, Siemens introduces FlexStart system that enables programming dishwashers, washing machines and clothes dryers to start working during the daytime, when the sun shines most strongly, and home solar panels produce the greatest amount of power, or when the household wind turbines operate the most efficient way. The user can select the latest time at which the dishes or clothes should be clean and dry, and the devices themselves will start working at the right moments.

As soon as the program is active, it reverts to these cheaper energy sources. If the decentralised electricity is insufficient to get the selected appliance up and running within a set time window, the power required is covered by conventional sources.

 

C. The self-sufficiency trend is also well represented by Lifepack, the anti-theft backpack designed with mobile working and digital nomads in mind.

lifepack-adrian-solgaard-credits-trendnomad

The integrated Solarbank, which is a 3-in-1 power bank, solar panel, and a Bluetooth speaker, stores six charges for a smartphone, generates one extra smartphone charge per four hours of sunlight and provides with great-sounding audio for 96 hours from the full battery.

 

5. Virtual reality beyond VR goggles

 

A. During the IFA, the list of winners in UX Design Awards competition was announced. The main, golden prize went to ICAROS.

The ICAROS is a fitness device and gaming controller in one gadget. It is designed to train muscles and stimulate the capability of reaction and balance. User’s movements on the ICAROS control and determine the virtual flight path or diving path in the VR game.

 

B. Virtual reality is not only about visual effects. In this immersive format, equally important is the 3D sound.

sennheiser-ambeo-credits-trendnomad

Sennheiser’s AMBEO VR Mic, developed in conjunction with VR content producers, and designed for professional VR production, captures high-quality audio in 360 degrees. The ambisonic microphone is fitted with four capsules in a tetrahedral arrangement. This special design allows you to capture the sound that surrounds you from a single point in space. As a result, you get fully spherical ambisonics sound to match a VR and 360 content.

 

C. In the field of amateur 360 videos, a device that is definitely worth mentioning is Insta360 camera.

insta360-credits-trendnomad

Insta360 Nano is the world’s first HD camera to shoot and live-stream high definition virtual reality and panoramic stills and videos directly from an iPhone. Additionally, for panoramic action shots or videos the Insta360 Nano can be attached to a bike or boarding helmet, drone or selfie stick. Plus, the Insta360 packaging is easily converted into a Google Cardboard VR viewer.

 

Conclusion after IFA 2016

After listening to the above quoted, as well as many other experts participating in the IFA Keynotes and IFA+ Summit, as well as visiting hundreds of exhibitors, I found the following conclusion: in the twenties of the twentieth century, offline household appliances, that will not generate any data about the user, will not use a microphone to listen to him or her, and will not push anyone to online subscription services with delivery (which means, they will not generate any extra income for service providers nor manufacturers), will become a luxury.

All pictures and videos by TrendNomad.com. More photos and videos I took at IFA 2016 you can find on my Instagram profile.

Do you find this material interesting? Then buy me a coffee! Wherever you are, you can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will help me to finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my website. Just click the rectangular button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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What is the future of VR?

Will VR cinemas equipped with virtual reality smartphone-based goggles survive on the market? Or maybe it is more likely that a new kind of theme parks, where virtual worlds may be experienced collectively, will become a profitable business? Philipp Wenning and Alex Herrmann, creators of the interactive documentary “Future of VR”, shared with me their thoughts on the current state of the VR industry and their forecast for its future.

TrendNomad.com: Today high-quality VR and 360 videos available on the internet are usually made for advertising. Why is this technology so attractive for brands?
Alex Herrmann (producer, Nifu.tv): In my opinion, advertisers do VR, because they just want to say that they’ve done VR. It is not about being one of the first adopters anymore, but still about having done something challenging or daring. The effect is even stronger in B2B relations.

Is VR a real trend or still just a trendy, cool gadget?
Philipp Wenning (director, IN VR): Virtual reality movie is a trendy thing to do now. Advertising always was about making new and fancy stuff. Each euro or dollar they put in, paid off with media coverage about this work. It worked like that for the last two years, now VR brings less publicity.

I don’t think it will stop at that point. Now it’s more about thinking a few steps further in terms of what is an actual benefit of doing certain parts of a campaign in VR. For example, it can be a virtual test drive of a car.

We are heading to the point where you can try any product in VR. One of the very first title launched for HTC Vive was IKEA’s app that enables you to design your kitchen. This goes beyond the trendiness.

Do you know which body position is the best for experiencing VR and 360 content?
P. W.: In general, for watching mobile VR I ask people to sit on a swivel chair, so they can move in all directions. But when you are entering an advanced virtual reality, it’s much better to stand up. Everything depends on the content.

Where will most people experience VR movies? Does it make sense to watch them at home on a sofa?
P. W.: I don’t think VR is a couch medium. As people sit a lot at their desk in front of a computer, I believe they could do the same with VR goggles.

Read more below. This interview has been edited for space and clarity. To listen to the original conversation, please watch the video. If you find this material interesting, you can (literally!) buy me a coffee, wherever you are. You can find all details at the bottom of the page.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgI8hjgM34E

Is VR comparable to cinema experience?
P. W.: There is a fundamental difference. Cinema is a collective experience, and VR is an isolated experience right now. I strongly believe that there is a place for a new type of immersive cinema where you don’t have to wear a headset. It would be a mixed reality scenario, related to dome theatres or IMAX’s approach with huge screens placed all around viewers.

At the same time, there is also The Void, a new kind of an amusement park. Many such places are being opened in China. You can enter it with three to five friends, have a VR experience together for about 20 minutes, then relax, and take another adventure.

What is your opinion about so-called “VR cinemas” equipped with smartphone-based VR goggles?
P. W.: I’m excited about this phenomena, but at the same time I’m not 100 percent sure whether this kind of VR cinema will survive. I believe there must be something more than just VR glasses strapped to people’s heads.

Do you expect that soon a simple VR headset will be included to every new smartphone?
P. W.: I’m not sure. It is not convenient to put a phone into a headset, and then you can’t do phone calls or send a text. Though, I agree this is the most clever way to popularise VR today. There will be a few more generations of VR ready smartphones, Google has just announced its plan.

Why some people willingly spend much more money on advanced VR headsets and dedicated computers?
P. W.: They want to have a really good headset, that is not partly a phone and partly something else. As soon as you want to enter more complex and realistic virtual worlds, you need to connect your headset to a compatible computer, and also have a room dedicated to this activity, or at least move all your stuff away.

There is a new trend of backpack computers made for VR. They are designed to be carried around with you.

Will the mobile and the advanced VR standards split even further or will finally cross?
P. W.: I see them crossing. There is no reason why a story could not be partly experienced on a mobile device and partly on a room scale, completely interactive system.
A. H.: Definitely they will blend together. I can imagine worlds I enter through different devices. I would play different roles depending on what kind of medium I use. If I look at it through a smartphone, an explosion would look shitty, but if I use my full-fledged two thousand dollars headset it would look amazing.

Future of VR
“Future of VR”, a virtual reality documentary created by Philipp Wenning and Alex Herrmann, is an interactive interview capsule that takes viewers through the history of the technology as well as a glimpse of its possible future in a 360-degree space. People who are sharing their thoughts have been working in the field of VR for more than two decades. The six minutes video was shown at Czasoprzestrzenie Kaleidoscope VR event that run June 24-26 in Łódź, Poland, as a part of Transatlantyk film festival.

Where can people watch your movie “Future of VR”?
P. W.: It is in the festival’s circuit, it goes around with Kaleidoscope VR. We are planning to release it for public, but we can’t say any details right now.

What is the biggest challenge of making your VR movie available online?
A. H.: When we did the movie we said: “Yeah! It’s done!”. Then we realised that it can be watched only on one kind of devices. Now we are making it available for more platforms. There is a lot of fighting with a technical stuff, which keeps us away from creating new productions.

 

All questions regarding the past, presence and the future of VR may be sent to Philipp Wenning and Alex Herrmann directly at pw@invr.space and alex@nifu.tv.

Do you like this interview? Then buy me a coffee! Wherever you are, you can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my website. Just click the rectangular button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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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

Do you like the article? Then buy me a coffee! You can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my blog. Just click the button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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What will you thINK?

Is the era of print over? Nothing could be more wrong. The golden age of print has just begun. Though, the meaning of the ‘print’ notion will significantly expand in the next ten years. The reason is simple: printed electronics are entering the mass market right now. An example: Milbox Touch VR cardboard set with touch screen printed with conductive ink that contains silver.

The most basic virtual reality goggles such as Google Cardboard have at least two advantages. Firstly, they are available to almost everyone thanks to the low retail price that should not exceed twenty dollars. Secondly, they are produced and sold as a flat pack. VR goggles made of cardboard are so cheap to produce, yet light and easy to transport, that in November  “The New York Times” sent free Google Cardboards to over a million subscribers of the printed edition of this newspaper.

When you assemble the flat cardboard into a three-dimensional box, and then insert a smartphone into the front pocket, open a dedicated app, and experience some virtual reality animations and 360 pictures and videos for the very first time, you must be enrapt how immersive this content is. But at the same time, you feel confused, because cardboard goggles are the exact opposite of the concept of ‘intuitive interface’. To navigate through the menu of VR app, you must hold your eyes for few seconds on virtual buttons. This approach excludes a quick scroll through the virtual environment and makes it impossible to derive pleasure from any game.

Does the cardboard VR headset work only as a disposable sample that encourages users to purchase a much more sophisticated – and much more expensive – VR device from Samsung, Oculus, Sony or HTC? Not necessarily. It could be a full-value product, if only it was integrated with a touch interface. On the other hand, the upgrade can not cause a serious change in the retail price of the hardware.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kwcv003t54

Even though it seems impossible, Tokyo-based designers from WHITE studio who specialises in IoT and VR projects, have found a way to achieve the above-mentioned goal. Japanese produce cheap touchpads using screen printing and a special conductive ink. Their first project based on this technology is called Milbox Touch.

Milbox Touch zoom credits Trend Nomad
Round panel placed on the right side of the Mailbox Touch goggles transfers touch commands to the smartphone’s display. Photography by Trend Nomad

Mailbox Touch is affordable virtual reality goggles that are integrated, in the contrast to other cardboard models offered by competitors, with a touch user interface. So-called Extension Sticker, the patent-pending technology implemented into this project, was developed at the University of Meiji.

The printed electronic circuit transfers touch commands from the side panel of the cardboard VR goggles to the smartphone. By changing the touching way, it is possible to make various input operations such as tap, scroll and swipe.

In other words: by touching the pattern on right side of the box printed with conductive ink, the user can operate the app displayed on a smartphone that is being closed inside the box, without touching the screen directly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Fu33ykSCmk

The conductive ink used in the printing process of the touch panel contains silver particles. Designers from WHITE studio promise to launch the Touch Milbox goggles at an affordable price, but it is worth noticing that the silver-based inks cost £1000 or more per kilogram. The real revolution of printed electronics will begin on a massive scale when the conductive ink will contain graphene instead of precious metals. According to the news published by the EnergyHarvestingJournal.com, the new graphene ink formulation would be 25 times cheaper.

Milbox Touch cartridge credits Trend Nomad
The cardboard cartridge comprising the Extension Sticker. Photography by Trend Nomad

Prototypes of Mailbox Touch headsets and the VR version of the iconic “Packman” game were presented at the Tokyo Design Week festival, which took place in the capital of Japan from 24 October to 3 November this year. In 2016, Mailbox Touch goggles will be available at one of the crowdfunding platforms. If you have any questions regarding this project, you can send them directly to the WHITE studio team at milbox@255255255.com.

www.milbox.tokyo

Do you like the article? Then buy me a coffee! You can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my blog. Just click the button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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A shopping VRenzy

How the not-too-distant future of shopping will look like? Designer Allison Crank tries to answer this question using, besides her imagination, a virtual reality headset. Her vision of the evolution of shopping, urbanism and architecture for 2020 involves an immersive, mind-bending virtual reality shopping centre, where clients represented by avatars can co-design and order bespoke objects.

„The Reality Theatre: Shopping in the Ludic Century”, a Masters Thesis created earlier this year by Allison Crank at Design Academy Eindhoven, is based on an assumption that shopping architecture is the most common form of ‘third places’, which are the social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of a home and a workplace. It is a space for public activities where people can see and be seen.

The designer started her research with the Greek agora, to the arcades of Paris, department stores, shopping malls and the experience economy. Despite the rich history of shopping architecture, with the rapid growth of e-retail, material shops and malls are facing the threat of obsolescence right now, burying a the same time the social aspects of doing shopping among other clients.

The Reality Theatre_Allison Crank2

Besides having the knowledge about history of shopping architecture, Crank also follows news about the gaming industry and emerging technologies, including virtual and augmented reality. Combining all her interests, she suggests that physical stores should be transformed into virtual playgrounds for experiences, where consumers become actors with the ability to perform, spectate, play and indulge themselves in the environment.

Shopping is a public performance. Stores are theatres where a client can be both performer and spectator. What if stores were designed as stages? What if shopping were a script for new stories? Designing tools for a play allows for new stories to emerge.

Watch the video interview embedded below for the better understanding of the designer’s idea. I met Allison Crank and asked her few questions at the Design Academy Eindhoven Graduation Show 2015, which is one of the must-see events of annual Dutch Design Week.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zlmr6tTpop4

One of the main features of The Reality Theatre, described as „urban shopping machine in the form of a VR play”, allows the consumer to have an active role in the creation of bespoke objects they are willing to order.

In the demo mode, visitors assume the role of Ms. Smith, a customer in search of a new chair in The Reality Theatre, from the moment she enters, to her interactions with the designer, who in this case is a giraffe, to when she leaves.

How the role of a designer will change in such digital environment? In Allison Crank’s opinion, designers will become directors who sell their know-how, experience and style, helping clients in the process of designing new personalised items online.

The Reality Theatre_Allison Crank Credits Trend Nomad
Demonstration of „The Reality Theatre: Shopping in the Ludic Century” project at Graduation Show 2015, Design Academy Eindhoven. Photography by Trend Nomad

Clients who wear a virtual reality headset on their heads, navigate through the virtual shopping mall full of psychedelic graphics, neon signs, escalators, free-roaming animals and avatars of other people (the question is: why there are only women?), using a game controller that they hold in their hands.

https://vimeo.com/142750175

Allison Crank is a designer and filmmaker working at the intersection of technology, media and architecture. Her work ranges from illustrations, animations, virtual reality and spatial design. She was born in New York, now she lives in The Netherlands and Denmark. If you have any questions regarding „The Reality Theatre: Shopping in the Ludic Century” project, please contact Allison directly at info@allisoncrank.com.

www.allisoncrank.com

Do you like the article? Then buy me a coffee! You can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my blog. Just click the button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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Interactive storytelling

The global sales of virtual reality goggles is predicted to reach twelve million units by 2016. The entertainment industry – film-makers in particular – is preparing for a breakthrough. When making a VR content, intuition is the only guide since the rulebook of interactive storytelling is yet to be written.

Interactive storytelling Jacek Naglowski credits Trend Nomad
Jacek Nagłowski – director, scriptwriter, film producer. Professionally involved in the world of mobile applications since three years ago. Co-founder of Circus Digitalis from Łódź, publisher of digital, interactive, multimedia-enhanced products for tablets. His interests focus on virtual reality and interactive storytelling. Photo: Trend Nomad

Let us first distinguish between 360-degree or spherical pictures and films and virtual reality. These terms are often used interchangeably.
Jacek Nagłowski: In media, and even at film festivals, these terms are commonly lumped together like synonyms, while they actually refer to distinct formats. 360-degrees – or panoramic – photographs and films are made with a single camera rotating on a single axis. The camera records images of a single surface, forming a circular image. By using a cursor on a computer or shifting a smartphone right or left, the viewer changes the angle. Spherical pictures and films, on the other hand, register images in two planes. In a 360-by-360 recording, the viewer can look not only to the sides, but also up or down. What is being recorded is the entire sphere around the camera. These are the images we see in Google Street View. In both cases, we are dealing with a recording of reality produced with a material camera. Meanwhile, virtual reality (or VR) does not require a traditional camera with a lens, but is generated by a computer from start to finish. Not only does the viewer enjoy full control over the direction of viewing, but he can also change his point of view onto the given space in all directions, x, y, and z, at will. Incidentally, VR is not a computer-generated reality – if that were the case, the assumption would be that it is there even when we’re not looking – but a computer-generated image of a three-dimensional reality. What we see in the virtual reality goggles is rendered when we look at it.

In 2016, Oculus, a Facebook subsidiary, will initiate the sale of its first consumer googles designed for viewing content in virtual reality – primarily games and films. Sony, Samsung, HTC, and many other companies are introducing similar devices.

In layman’s terms, anything one sees through goggles such as Rift by Oculus – including 360-degree or spherical pictures and films – is virtual reality.
Yes – the term ‘virtual reality’ is applied to spherical images of the actual world registered with a material camera for the sole reason that you can view them using VR goggles. For me, that’s absurd. Spherical films were made before virtual reality goggles went mainstream without ever being called VR. As publications about Oculus came up in droves, all these terms were thrown into the box labelled ‘virtual reality’. If it were up to me, I would have distinguished ‘immersive films’, that is, stereoscopic spherical films recorded with a material spherical camera. However, I’m afraid this terminological mess can no longer be put in order. The same happened with stereoscopic film and three-dimensional graphics – though neither has anything to do with the other, they are both described as ‘3D’. And that’s how it is.

From the perspective of the viewer, spherical and virtual reality films have at least one thing in common, namely a high degree of interactivity previously known only in games.
Yes and no. Interactivity can take place on several levels. In spherical films and VR animations, interactivity occurs at the level of the camera: the viewer can choose the direction of sight, taking control over the camera. Experiments with interactivity can also occur within the script: the viewer may choose a plot line to follow. This requires that the script is developed in the form of a tree with various paths branching out. Third, interactivity may occur in editing. The viewer may choose when to make the cuts, which camera to choose, or which storyline to follow. Fourth, interactivity can consist in interventions in the represented world – modifications of the appearance of objects or spaces, of relations between objects or characters. The interactivity of the camera is the only common denominator of spherical and VR productions. The other three may occur, but don’t have to.

We don’t know the language of interactive storytelling well enough, we’re unable to use it yet. This is a major field for research.

What happens to the experience of storytelling when the viewer can try his hand on choosing angles or making cuts, activities so far restricted to film-makers?
The Łódź Film School is currently forming a Laboratory of Image Perception. We intend to use it as a platform for studying this problem in hope of finding answers to questions like the one you posed. We’ve only just began. Intuition tells us that an increasingly active viewer is less capable of experiencing the story. A spherical or VR film is like a game: you are either the active party, or a passive witness to events. We believe that reflectivity and the ability to experience the story increase only in the latter case.

Virtual reality allows us to see the represented world through the eyes of a protagonist of our choosing. Does that further empathy?
That’s a very important question. The initial assumption is that entering a protagonist’s body and seeing through his eyes does not imply deeper empathy. Paradoxically, this device actually limits empathy. In my view, that’s because the viewer never identifies fully with the protagonist of the story, and what we’re seeing in only the projection of the feelings of a reader of a book or a viewer of a film onto a character. And that happens only when a part of the story is left untold. Another figure must be involved here. To experience another person’s story, I have to remain myself. When you read a book written in the first-person perspective, you do not feel like you’re the protagonist of the story. Quite the contrary, you feel as if the narrator was sitting in front of you reading aloud a book about his own experiences. The viewer has to be allowed to withdraw and reflect. When you see the world through the eyes of the protagonist, there’s no room for distance or shared experience.

When you dive into a space viewed through virtual reality goggles without entering the body of a protagonist, you feel a greater empathy towards the characters you see than you would when seeing the same scene in cinema, on a TV screen, or a mobile device.

Virtual reality goggles cut the user off from the outside world. Viewing films becomes a personal experience – no one sees the same screen I am looking at.
That was exactly what happened to music when sales of portable cassette players began in 1979. Today, when you want to immerse yourself in the music, even when you’re alone at your home, you will use headphones. Insulation from the outside world intensifies the experience. On the other hand, the introduction of the Walkman also led to another change: music became an object of everyday use, a background to other activities – a soundtrack to living.

Will Oculus become the new Walkman? Will people on public transportation take to wearing VR goggles?
I don’t think we would meet VR-users on a bus, tram, or in the metro. One reason is that wearing an Oculus would make them miss their stop. Besides, I don’t think it would become socially acceptable. Still, such devices will surely be seen on planes or in hotels.

In the United States, virtual reality-based entertainment centres are being raised under The Void franchise. Others will pop up in different locations across the world.

Viewing films with VR goggles is a very intimate experience.
From its inception, cinema sought to isolate the viewer from outside stimuli interfering with the viewing of the film. Virtual reality takes this tendency to the extreme. Here, we are truly alone. If there’s anything that might bankrupt the cinema industry – companies that own cinema halls, not film-making as such – it would be precisely virtual reality. VR can emulate the cinema experience better than cinema itself – even two-dimensional films with framing offer a more immersive experience when viewed on a screen inside a virtual cinema generated by VR goggles than in a real theatre. And no one is munching popcorn.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cML814JD09g

Viewing a film in a cinema is largely a group experience – we are continuously reminded that someone is sitting right beside us, and there’s always someone we can discuss the film with after it’s over. Can viewing films in VR become a social experience?
For the past two years, Linden Lab – the company that launched Second Life – has been developing a VR platform based on social networking, called Project Sansar. The users will share virtual space with other members, or rather, their avatars. Meanwhile, AltspaceVR has already launched its social network. You will meet other figures in a virtual spaced viewed with VR goggles. Each computer character represents a living human being. You would watch games or films together. The images in the virtual reality goggles of all users are synchronised. Besides, virtual reality goggles are fitted with players designed for standard 2D films. They are screened in a virtual theatre. When the viewer looks around the room, he will see seats reflecting the light emitted by the virtual screen. Still, those seats will be empty, which I consider to be a serious drawback. I believe that when you’re conscious of other people in the virtual theatre, whatever avatar is involved, your experience is far deeper than anything known devices for long-distance communication can offer.

Shouldn’t avatars look like people?
For basic non-verbal communication, it’s quite enough if they are human-like. What matters is calibrated eye contact. When you establish that, you will be certain there is actually someone next to you. Communication via Skype seems artificial because we cannot capture the gaze of our interlocutor. That’s because the cameras are located on top of the screens, and interlocutors look at the screens. Virtual reality eliminates this problem because the users look at avatars, not images from cameras.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1j3WQeS_Qc

Are spherical and VR films suitable for editing?
At first glance, it might seem that there is no room for cuts in films designed for virtual reality goggles, but film-makers from New Deal Studios, the production company currently most advanced in using VR, are experimenting with cuts and claim that editing is possible. A lot depends on what conventions are accepted by creators and consumers. On the one hand, we are facing questions concerning the perception of the viewer and the potential risk that he might be lost when cuts are applied in VR. These issues are being assessed, and we expect to come up with several theories. On the other hand, conventions are a fiercely powerful tool capable of forcing the mind to read certain gestures in a particular way. Traditional films also come up with these questions: the conventions of storytelling, including editing, are different in Hollywood than they are in Bollywood. We no longer tell stories the way they were told a hundred years ago. Whether sharp cuts are acceptable in spherical and VR productions depends on the conventions applied. It’s a process that will take years as it takes many productions and various experiments.

Telling stories in VR requires astounding directing skills, perhaps even greater than in traditional film. One has to know how to command the viewer’s attention, how to make him look in the right direction at the right time.

The film-maker may lose control over the direction of the viewer’s gaze. Is there anything he can do to at least try to direct his attention to areas where something significant is about to happen?
Skilful set-designing is the basic tool, but this can be achieved in other ways, for instance, specific sound effects. When the viewer is looking in a particular direction, he will hear pre-determined sounds clearly, while others fade. When he turns his body or head in a different direction, the sounds he hears will also change in intensity – as happens in real life. But when sound is used for narration, we can point the viewer’s attention in the right direction. We can manipulate him. This is what sound creation is for – the secret of any medium boils down to the ability to accentuate and hide information, which allows us to communicate a story, and not chaos.

Are any special technologies used for recording that kind of sound?
Yes – for instance, VR films are recorded in binaural audio. Special microphones are placed in prosthetic human ears at distances and in mutual relations identical to those of their natural equivalents. The shape of the prosthesis is very similar to that of an actual auricle. The shape of the earlobe seriously affects the way in which the sounds we hear reach us. Binaural sound is listened to on headphones. Since we have learnt to emulate binaural recording in the process of sound creation, we have complete control over the type, direction, and intensity of the sound heard by the viewer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u163wC6mP2A

Virtual reality isn’t just about feature films. It also includes virtual art or design exhibitions, among others. Is there any point in making faithful replicas of material exhibitions in the VR standard?
In my view, there’s little point in copying elements of reality, including museum halls or exhibition rooms in their entirety, into the virtual world. My views on sound are similar in that regard. The use of any new medium – photography, film, or computer graphics – at its inception always involves the same error: the faithful reproduction of reality. But the media themselves can never reproduce reality – they only transmit images of it. The more conscious the use of a given medium is – like when framing or depth are used to do away with irrelevant information – the more successful the transmission will become. Still, I’m certain that many museums and galleries will welcome spherical cameras and offer digital access to their interiors, including the exhibited works, via the Internet. But the audiences will soon find that insufficient. We have to come up with new ways of narrating virtual exhibitions. They have to be devised from scratch to avoid the banality of a mere survey of exhibits with multimedia attachments or a school trip across three-dimensional visualisations of the premises of a given cultural institution.

We must do away with the notion that virtual reality requires walls, floors, or ceilings. They are not necessary. The only thing that matters is that the space we generate aids the reception of the exhibits in the best possible way.

Where should we begin when designing virtual exhibitions for VR goggles?
We should begin with the exhibition space. The curator is unconstrained by any limitations of a determinate location. The hypothetical, quasi-material space can be as big as you want – it can be infinite. On top of that, virtual reality permits an immediate change of location – changing of the point from which a given object is seen as well as movement between subsequent exhibition spaces. We need to learn how to direct viewers across a virtual space from one object to another. The greatest and most trying task of the curator of an exhibition in virtual reality will consist in defining the exhibition space from start to finish – not in filling out the cubic metres he is assigned to.

What sources can the curators turn to if they want to learn how to use virtual reality?
Experimenting is the only way – trying what works and what does not. The curator takes absolute control over the space that is being created. He can do anything he wants, so long as it helps him tell the story. It’s a freedom curators never enjoyed before – exhibitions were placed in enclosed spaces, with the objects placed on the floor or mounted. In VR, these elements are gone. One exhibit can penetrate through another. I find this randomness scary. It’s not freedom, but chaos. Freedom is when you have a choice. One has to be very careful to prevent excessive information from adversely affecting the response to the exhibition.

Preparing a film or exhibition in virtual reality is deceptively similar to work on a theatre play, the only difference being that there are no restrictions resulting from the dimensions of the space in use.

How should we talk about a material object that can be viewed from any perspective, favourable or not, in virtual reality?
We are about to conduct research into the human perception of objects, into what draws the people’s attention in the first place, using eye-tracking. The first trial will involve studying persons not professionally involved in viewing objects. Then, the same experiment will be conducted on a group of designers – we are interested in how they look at objects they don’t know. Third, we will analyse the reactions of photographers and camera operators. When we compare these lines of the gaze, we will know how people apprehend information about objects, whether there is any persistent rule concerning object perception and which line is the most common. We will learn to tell stories about objects and draw paths around them in virtual reality. The viewer will feel free to choose his point of view even as he is led toward the key lines of the gaze. It’s not about favourable or unfavourable appearances – that’s for marketing to tackle. The main task is to distinguish the ways of looking at an object that convey the idea of it in the most fruitful and natural manner, leading to understanding.

How can we eliminate irrelevant information?
Outside of sound designing, we can use depth of focus. Before the première of Tron, people believed that everything had to be razor sharp in 3D. When they saw the film, many film-makers changed their minds. The unfocused bits of the screen work perfectly well, but this is not the regular lens diffusion. We have learned the use of a new tool. The same will undoubtedly happen with films in virtual reality.

Do spherical cameras allow for changes of focus?
No, this isn’t technically possible during filming. Diffusion can be added in post-production through computer editing on a frame-by-frame basis, a partly automated process.

How does it work with images generated electronically in entirety?
Focus can still be manipulated, of course, but no one knows how to employ consciously the effect in VR films yet.

Can information media become fully immersive, too?
Though telling stories about objects in virtual reality is not particularly easy, VR is perfectly suited to providing reports from the field. Experiments in immersive journalism are being conducted today. One example is the VR-based Project Syria – Nonny de la Peña transports the viewer into the cruel world of war. The viewer first witnesses the bombing of the central area of a Syrian town, and then moves to a refugee camp. This three-dimensional world is computer-generated, but the visualisations are based on films, pictures, and sounds recorded in real life. In 2014, the film received a standing ovation at the Sundance festival. Documentary materials recorded with a spherical camera will make an even greater impact, particularly if the image is transmitted live. Of course, you don’t have to use this technology just for disasters. It can just as well be employed for transmitting material of much greater levity, such as sports events. NextVR, an American company, is already on the case.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jN_nbHnHDi4

Will design magazines, including those about interior design, have their own channels at VR websites?
The readers of interior design magazines may feel inclined to view the interiors of apartments in a spherical format instead of just looking at a bunch of static pictures. It might seem to them that this would allow them to catch many more appealing sights. The truth is that a spherical camera would expose the amount of trickery involved in magazine photos. Perfect framing, lighting, some Photoshopping, and the interior becomes picture-perfect. A spherical photograph or film would take away the charm. If I were a publisher, I’d keep away from that format.

And yet some hotels have already published spherical pictures of the rooms on offer on their websites.
This is done for a purely utilitarian purpose. 360-by-360 recordings perfectly capture the appearance of the rooms, which is going to be verified by the guests upon arrival. You won’t see that transparency from magazines about interior design. They are not meant to provide images of the real world, but to beautify it.

An apartment that looks beautiful and spacious on a well-framed picture might turn out to be a cubby hole in virtual reality goggles.

Is there no Photoshopping in spherical imaging?
You may clean up a spherical picture, obviously, but you can’t trick the sense of scale or proportion in VR. Pictures in magazines, like in any other media, always present objects or spaces in a specific scale, usually reduced. A few tricks is all it takes to manipulate proportions. What’s striking about virtual reality is the sense of actual scale. That’s something no older medium could give you. In a 1-to-1 three-dimensional picture, proportions and distances are so real that the viewer almost senses the physicality of the objects. Computer-generated objects don’t even have to look super-real for the viewer to feel their materiality. In the case of images of living beings, the sensation is even stronger. The sense of materiality, particularly when eye contact is established, causes us to empathise with them. Chris Milk is an expert in generating empathy with virtual reality. You should see his TED2015 talk.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXHil1TPxvA

Today’s film scripts contain certain pre-defined elements: the first and second turning point and the denouement. Do the same rules apply to VR films?
Film-makers know all about using writing, editing, framing, and sound to evoke emotions in viewers of traditional films. Things are far less clear when it comes to telling interactive stories. All art, and particularly narrative art, affects people only to the extent that its creators can exert control over the emotions of their audience. In the case of VR documentaries such as Immersive Journalism that can be achieved quite easily. Feature films constitute a greater challenge in that regard. One has to experiment: only when we become aware of the medium will we create works of significant cultural value, the kind that move us and speak to us of important matters.

“Wired” named its most important film of 2015, and it’s “Henry”, an animated VR film. It’s a short tale of a hedgehog that likes to hug but can’t because of its spikes. He looks at the viewer frequently, sparking feelings of sadness or excitement.

Does the viewer of a film seen through goggles realise the existence of the screen and a material or imagined camera between him and the characters in the film?
The viewer knows about the camera so long as he sees a screen, or rather, its boundaries. In virtual reality, the user is armed with goggles and does not see any screen, and thus forgets about the camera. He is thrust onto the set.

https://vimeo.com/134754691

In the 20th century, TV sets made an impact on house furnishing – the receiver was the centrepiece of the room. The viewers sat almost motionless on a sofa or a recliner, gaping at the screen. Where and how will we view VR films?
The position of the body deeply affects our response to content prepared in virtual reality. The agreement between body movements and what is represented inside the goggles may decide whether we are engaged in the represented story. At the same time, the user has to feel safe and comfortable in spite of being shut out from the outside world. While VR changes as a matter of course, the furniture we use when watching content in virtual reality should be stable. I can’t imagine the actual appearance of such a piece of furniture, but I would like it if a Polish furnishing company entered the market with the world’s first collection of furniture designed with VR users in mind.

In 2016, we will see whether virtual reality is a fad or a business that can change the entertainment industry for years.
VR might share the fate of rollercoasters. It’s great fun, but best used from time to time – it is too physically and psychologically discomforting. Still, I believe in that scenario. This cinema is only just starting to develop.

 

If you want to ask Jacek Nagłowski any additional questions concerning the production of virtual reality films, send him an e-mail at jacek.naglowski@circusdigitalis.com.

www.circusdigitalis.com

This interview was conducted in September 2015 as part of a final thesis at the post-graduate programme “History and critique of design” at the SWPS University in Warsaw under the direction of Agata Szydłowska and Monika Rosińska.

Do you like the interview? Then buy me a coffee! You can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my blog. Just click the button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

More articles

Report: media in 2020

Periscope, Meerkat, YouTube 360, Milk VR. These apps are less than one-year-old, but can already be seen as firsts elements of a significant change upcoming to the media market. Which players will matter in 2020? For example, those who merge into one platform all features known from apps listed above and launch an app that will let people watch live stream videos on a virtual reality headset.

According to a recent study by Cisco, by 2019 „Wi-Fi and mobile devices will account for 66 percent of IP traffic. (…) Globally, consumer internet video traffic will be 80 percent of all consumer Internet traffic in 2019, up from 64 percent in 2014. This percentage does not include video exchanged through peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. (…) Mobile data traffic will increase 10-fold between 2014 and 2019”.

Will the video be the same in 2019 as we know it today? Not necessarily. New online trends are emerging and growing very fast. Soon they will change how we understand such notions as „the Internet”, „video” and „social media”.

„The format is the message”

At the LeWeb conference, which was held in December 2014 in Paris, Ben Huh – founder and CEO of Cheezburger – talked about the evolution of the media. His forecast for the next 5 and 25 years includes information on how much time per week people living in developed countries will spend on consuming media, and which formats will go mainstream. Ben Huh also shared some tips on how to create a media company that will last years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYOVd0kt-3w

I would like to encourage you to watch the movie (it takes 20 minutes) or to read the summary below of the most important ideas delivered by Ben Huh. The lecture will help you to comprehend the following parts of this report.

Ben Huh Cheezburger LeWeb 1

„Marshall McLuhan, the media theorist, coined the term: »The Medium is the Message« [which means the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived – ed.]. In the past, it was pretty simple. Each device had its own format. If you wanted to read, you opened a book or a magazine. A device, a physical hardware – a phone, an iPhone, an iPad, a laptop – is not the same thing as the format. Today, with devices that can do everything, we moved from vertical silos to horizontal competition. I would like to say: the format is the message”.

Ben Huh Cheezburger LeWeb 2

„We have 168 hours in a week. If you sleep 8 hours a day, you spend 112 hours awake. We are at the phase when people, at least those living in the developed world, spend almost 80 hours a week on consuming media. Think about how much of your visual space is filled with pixels. You are consuming media right now looking at screens [most of the audience gathered at the LeWeb conference stares all the time at a laptop, tablet or smartphone – ed.]. In fact, screens appear more and more frequently in our lives. We will encounter more and more pixels”. As we can see on the graph, in 2020 the average time spent on different types of media consumption will be approx. 90 hours a week. According to Ben Huh, „in 2038 we will be consuming some sort of media at every single hour at every single awake moment. 112 hours a week of media consumption. It is an opportunity for a new format, a new company that will win the market share. We have never been at a better time to create media”.

Ben Huh Cheezburger LeWeb 3

„For the last 50 years, we all had to watch the same things on television. Millions knew the same cultural context. What is happening now, is that we are creating many platforms to tell our stories to other people. More and more of us are in the participatory process of sharing who we are through the content that we create. We are the content that we share”.

Ben Huh Cheezburger LeWeb 4

„When electronic companies bring new devices, those who win the new market share are those who are able to create new formats. People who create content for the previous generations of devices are woefully unfit to create content for the new ones. A newspaper company is going to have a very difficult time creating content for the virtual reality world. Video games companies currently have the biggest libraries of 3D immersive environments. Yet, both types of companies need each other to understand how to leverage the new medium and how to create better formats for telling stories. Gaming alone is not going to be a saviour of virtual reality, and we will have to create something better”.

Ben Huh Cheezburger LeWeb 5

„If you want to be a great media company, create great content. You can do that today. But if you want to build a media empire, something that will last the test of time, you will have to create your own format. You might not be able to technically own it, but you have to pioneer to a point, where people associate you with that format. But formats don’t last forever. Every five years you have to make sure that you continue to innovate”.

Live stream your life

Which format is gaining popularity right now? Mobile social media apps used for live streaming videos among a dispersed audience are the answer. An example: Periscope, acquired by Twitter in early 2015 for $100 million.

Periscope

On the Periscope.tv you can read the following description: „What if you could see through the eyes of a protester in Ukraine? Or watch the sunrise from a hot air balloon in Cappadocia? It may sound crazy, but we wanted to build the closest thing to teleportation. While there are many ways to discover events and places, we realized there is no better way to experience a place right now than through live video. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but live video can take you someplace and show you around”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mp4RkxvE0g

„Wall Street Journal” made the video explaining how Periscope works. Anyone can download the app (iOSAndroid) on his or her smartphone and start broadcasting. The audience will come from all over the world. Naturally, you can also watch live videos from other users. Choose a program from the list of available „scopes” or click on a red spot shown on the map. You can follow people and be followed, post comments or give likes – to do so just touch the screen at any place.

„Explore the world through someone else’s eyes” – claims Periscope in its slogan. Instead of watching the world through a camera belonging to large media corporation, observe it through an ordinary man’s eyes.

Meerkat app, the three weeks older competitor of Periscope (both were officially launched in March 2015), announced few days ago that the app can be connected to a GoPro camera. Sportsmen who wear such a miniature video recorder and publish on YouTube videos of extreme biking, skydiving, surfing, etc., from now on can broadcast their performances live on the internet.

As we can read on the official Meerkat’s blog, „Broadcasters can now invite viewers to take over their stream for up to sixty seconds. It’s a simple yet powerful way to create a deeper human connection with people”.

 This is the first of many steps to come towards our long-term vision for participatory live-streaming, going from „broadcasting to” towards „broadcasting with”.

If you want to know more details about this app, you can watch the interview with Ben Rubin, the founder and CEO of Meerkat. The program can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play.

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

Are live stream videos popular only among people who participate in or are witnesses to something unusual? No – this type of tools are used also, or perhaps mainly, to broadcast everyday life. Teenagers use for this purpose YouNow app, which is a „Live Stream Video Chat” (no one thought that young people confine themselves to Snapchat, right?). You can search for live videos using hashtags. When you type, for example, #sleepingsquad, you will find a list of several dozen broadcast of… sleeping teenagers. The audience watches even those broadcasters who turned off the lights before going to bed. If you have less than 18 years old, you are more than welcome on YouNow (iOSAndroid). If you are older, you probably wonder why young people are willing to live stream their everyday life. If you know the answer, you must have understood a decade ago why people will be eager to share private information on Twitter and Facebook and now you are a millionaire.

Periscope- and Meerkat-type apps have already aroused controversy about an invasion of privacy and copyright violation. An example: „HBO has sent takedown notices to Periscope after users of the Twitter-owned live-streaming app were using it to broadcast the fifth-season premiere of »Game of Thrones«”. In the coming months, we will find many publications devoted to similar problems.

360˚ videos

Until now, it was obvious that a photographer or a film director chooses the shot size and composition. Pictures and videos captured in a 360-degree perspective can profoundly change this order. When using the 360˚ camera, filmmaker’s role is limited to check if nothing obscures the view around the lens. The viewer decides in which direction he or she wants to look and at any moment he or she can look up, down, on the right or left. The viewer feels like a camera operator working on the set. Although, if you are not looking in the right direction at the right moment, you can miss the main action. Watching 360˚ videos is a bit like playing a spherical RPG game. The only difference is that the action takes place in the real world.

Where can you find 360˚videos? For example, on the YouTube. Google’s streaming platform supports spherical movies from March 2015. 360˚ video is closer to the mainstream than ever – pop stars such as Björk and Fort Minor have already released their spherical clips. To see how 360˚ video works, watch the movie made by the Australian airline Qantas. Please play the movie embedded under this paragraph on a mobile device on the YouTube app. If you are reading this article on a laptop or desktop computer, you will not see the spectacular 360˚ effect. Open this page on your smartphone or tablet running on iOS or Android, make sure that you have the latest version of YouTube app and click this link to open the video on the YT app. As soon as you start playing the film, please move your mobile device in different directions. The image will move respectively to the movement of your hand. Stand up and slowly rotate around your axis. You will feel as you are in the heart of the action. Look around. You will see a landing of the airplane from a captain’s perspective, admire the scenic Hamilton Island from a flying helicopter, swim on a coral reef, relax in a luxury hotel etc. When you finish watching the video, return to this page – there is more content ready to read and watch. Other films embedded to this article can be viewed on any device.

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

Apart from watching 360˚ videos on your smartphone or tablet, you can also upload your spherical films on YouTube. To record  360˚ films, you need one of these cameras: Giroptic 360camIC Real Tech AllieKodak SP360 or Ricoh Theta.

Kodak cameras CES 2015 credits Trend Nomad
The Kodak SP360 camera (in the center) was shown in January 2015 at CES fairs in Las Vegas. Photography: Trend Nomad

The real world & a virtual reality

If the video made by Qantas airlines watched on a mobile device made an impression on you, think about the feeling you might have while watching the same clip on a headset that completely separates you from the real world and allows you to immerse in the 360° video captured at the Hamilton Island. The displayed pictures would move along with the movements of your head, making an impression that it happens in reality right now. Pure fantasy? Distant future? No, this is a virtual reality (VR) technology used for displaying pictures taken in a real world. The idea of VR is nothing new, but until now the technology that enables the implementation of this concept was not available on the mass market. In the pure form, virtual reality refers only to digital environments generated from the beginning to the end on a computer, but more and more often this term also includes displaying on a VR headset spherical photos and videos recorded in the real world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7T9Dv1aLMbw

If you are a fan of „Star Wars”, you may also like the video below. Press play and see how stories told so far on immobile displays will look like on the virtual reality standard. In order to try a VR headset, you do not have to spend hundreds of dollars at the Samsung Gear VR or wait until the first quarter of 2016 when Oculus Rift will be launched on the market (incidentally, in 2014 Oculus was acquired by Facebook for 2 billion dollars). In fact, all that you need is the Google Cardboard, priced as less as 10 or 20 dollars, an iOS or Android smartphone with a screen size between 4.5 inches and 5.5 inches, and an access to the Internet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxAj2lyX4oU

Aforementioned spherical videos available on YouTube 360 also can be viewed on virtual reality headset. Smartphones running on Android can split the view into two fields which is necessary to achieve the VR effect. IPhones users have to wait for an update of YouTube app. Without a doubt, in few years YouTube will be a tremendous library of 360 and VR videos.

Apps such as YouVisit allow you to go on a virtual journey. If you already have a VR set, I recommend you to download this app (iOSAndroid) and to „teleport” yourself for a minute or two to Rome or Machu Picchu. This service also allows you to visit some universities, restaurants and hotels, and even to watch spherical images captured on weddings. Another feature called Expeditions from Google works like a virtual field trip for classes. Teachers can set a destination and allow students to follow with their Cardboards.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlYJdZeA9w4

In January 2015 at CES event Samsung announced the launch of Milk VR platform offering a content  devoted to virtual reality devices. A bit earlier, Volvo released an app that allows you to have a VR test drive of XC90 car. Last but not least, gaming center called The Void, where you will have fun running in a special suit and helmet adapted to virtual reality games, is being built in Salt Lake City.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cML814JD09g

However, the most important driving force behind the virtual reality technology will be neither tourism nor games. It will be the porn industry. In 2010 the CNN published the article describing the secret relationship between tech and porn: „From the printing press to instant cameras, from pay-per-view to VCRs, pornographers – both professional and private – have been among the quickest to jump on board with newly developed gadgets. (…) On the internet, streaming video, credit-card verification sites, Web referral rings and video technology like Flash all can be traced back to innovations designed to share, and sell, adult content”.

From the press release issued by the porn site Naughty America, we learn that the first porn movie ready to play on virtual reality headset is available online. The viewer can choose whether he or she wants to watch a video captured from a woman’s or a man’s perspective. Complex recorded reactions from first-time users of VR pornography. Do not worry – the video embedded below does not include pornographic content, it shows only different reactions of viewers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLqVxC6JWIM

2020

The Big Brother is watching us? In 2020, everyone will be a big brother. Choose a point on the map and watch what is happening at the selected location. Live, at 8K definition, in the virtual reality standard. Anyone will be able to become a video reporter. People will hunt for scenes that could bring them popularity around the world. If you become famous, media corporations will pay you for sharing your videos. Amounts paid to celebrities for product placement in their broadcasts will rocket. A few years later, even Hollywood movies will be watched in virtual reality from different perspectives. Millions of people, rather than exploring common cultural context, will constantly tell their stories. The quotation by Ben Huh – „We are the content that we share” – has never been closer to become the truth.

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