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.
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.
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.
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