VR primed for the next stage

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The development of VR has been an up-and-down story over the last few decades, but it took an important step forward recently with the creation of the Oculus Rift headset. According to the reports, when a person wears the Oculus Rift headset, they can comfortably 'look around' with the headset without their virtual view becoming a spinning mess of nausea. A lot of commentators are suggesting that this new product heralds the long-awaited era of mainstream use of VR headsets by much of the population for entertainment, education and other related activities.

The New Scientist magazine ran an article last week on this subject entitled 'Virtual reality film revolution puts you in the scene'. The article reports on how several major companies involved in technology and film, such as Sony, are exploring how to use VR to make a new generation of movies and documentaries. The article discusses the benefits, but also the obstacles for VR film-making. I wrote a letter to the New Scientist magazine, suggesting a different use for this new technology, which they've published:

Jacob Aron's article on the new generation of VR equipment (Issue 3011, 7th March 2015, pg20) focuses on VR being used in films or games. As the article notes, this can causes problems because in the case of games, the viewer can't see his or her controller and in the case of films, he or she doesn't know what to focus on and the film equipment is hard to hide.

It's a valid point that the article makes. I couldn't see how it would be possible to make a movie for a VR headset viewer without some extensive post-production CGI work and even then, I don't think the film approach to telling a story doesn't suit a VR headset at all. I then went on to explain a different and, I think, far more appropriate and exciting use:

Why not instead use VR for live performances such as rock gigs, theatre showings, opera, sports games et al? In all those cases, the focus of attention is one particular area and the presence of film equipment and technicians is a natural element. Not only that, but in a performance attended by people through VR, the venue can be anywhere and the audience is almost limitless. In addition, members of the VR audience can watch from their own home or in a special viewing venue with others; they can choose to interact with each other or be passive and they can potentially watch the performance from any location, even on the stage. With microphones and headphones, they can cheer and applaud and hear those around them in the 'VR venue' cheering too, creating a very real atmosphere. It could transform live entertainment.


The more I've thought about it, the more solid an idea it's become. I can't see any flaws. It's certainly true that attending a 'V-vent' wouldn't be as memorable and exciting as being there in person, but how many people can be in the front row of their favourite band's gig whenever they like, wherever it is on Earth? It'll be fascinating to see how it progresses.

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