Everyone has heard the term “virtual reality” (VR for short) but forget everything you think you know and get ready for a genuine media revolution. Virtual reality is headed your way and it’s going to be an impressively important technology.
Joakim Edlund, the CTO and co-founder of Moggles, a user friendly, pocket-sized virtual reality system, says that the transformative power of VR is akin to the monumental leap that media took when it went from still images to film. Imagine, he says, BEING an actual character in a movie (and being able to look around you in any direction) instead of just being an observer. This is a reality that may be very real very soon as Hollywood companies are already experimenting with 360 degree panoramic movies.
So when will the VR revolution be fully upon us? “When 360 videos are easy to create and old action cameras are substituted with 360 cameras, VR headsets will sell in huge amounts,” says Edlund.
HTC, together with Valve, has built what appears to be one of the best and coolest VR systems (or perhaps the best and coolest)—called Vive—that will be available by the end of 2015 (in time for the holidays according to the website). In order to prepare myself, and the DailyTekk audience, for the future of VR that is lurking right around the proverbial corner, I spoke with HTC’s Executive Director of Design, Dana Nicholson.
Why should consumers care about virtual reality—what makes it a big deal?
It’s something that needs to be experienced to really understand. It’s what everyone says (and has been saying for 25 years), it feels real, but really it feels really real! When all the parts are working with fast enough response and latency the human body is convinced that things are real, and people find themselves hard pressed to step off a virtual ledge even though they fully know they are here in a regular room doing one of the demos.
What ONE feature alone (the standout feature) makes your VR headset better than the competition?
Room scale experiences and interactions. The Vive is the debut of this type of tracking that allows people to get up from their chairs and fully interact in 3D space. The basestation laser tracking system is the key that unlocks both very accurate motion tracking of both the person’s head and hands over a small or very large area. This precise tracking allows people to stand up and walk around a room-scale space and interact with things in a natural and intuitive way. Some of the demos we showed at MWC and GDC provided a fun way to pick up, inspect and apply tools toward a game goal or make a big mess of things and see what happens.
What else makes sets your device apart from the pack?
HTC and Valve are committed to bring a consumer VR to market for the masses. We announced to the Content Developer community our HTC Vive Developer Edition kit and associated program, and a commitment schedule for a full consumer product ready for worldwide commercialization by the end of 2015. It’s no longer just for Devs to explore and experiment with, but for regular folks to own, share and enjoy at home.
What is one thing people probably don’t know—but should—about VR?
In the VR development community we talk about achieving levels of ‘presence,’ which we refer to as all the factors that create a complete feeling of being in that other place. This is a contribution of all factors of imaging, responsiveness, and interactions. Some entry level systems using phone holders do create some of these sensations and have some degree of exploration, but have significant limitations on latencies and overall system performance and some people may not feel comfortable when things don’t actually track in real time as they should.
Will VR’s first killer application be gaming or something else entirely? Why?
We expect the first wave of users will be the gamers and VR enthusiasts that will be lining up and eager to get their hands on them. But as this new achievement of fully immersive experiences and commercial readiness is confirmed, we know that games are only the beginning. We are sure that learning and training applications are obviously valuable applications, as well as providing wider access and information about ‘real’ things like the Google Earth demo we showed last week, or ways to bring traditional cultural experiences we associated with museums and art – but also unlocking a new medium for new forms and types of art and cinematic experiences in time.