Beyond the Static: Virtual Reality

Welcome to 2017, the year of virtual reality.

There was a time when the word VR conjured up images of the iconic sci-fi movie Tron.

Nowadays virtual reality isn’t quite as alien, but it hasn’t been the mainstream success many thought it would be either.

Until now.

We’re expecting big things of VR in 2017, with more affordable headsets and a greater number of apps appearing on the market.

In this first instalment of our ‘Beyond the Static’ series, Social Chain videographer, Fraser Cottrell writes about this year’s must-have gadget.

What is virtual reality?

The advent of virtual reality has enabled developers to create new and immersive landscapes where users can explore and interact with their surroundings.

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Of course, the obvious fit for VR seems to be gaming – ever wondered what it would be like to star in an immersive zombie slasher game?

Virtual reality’s impact on the modern world

Gaming aside, a growing number of industries, including film, retail, health, travel and real estate, are beginning to realise the potential of virtual reality.

Take the sports and live events market for instance. How many times have you tried to buy tickets for an event that has sold out in a matter of minutes?

Virtual reality and 360-degree video are heading in such a way that viewers will soon be able to experience a gig, festival, sporting event via live VR.

Goldman Sachs’ 2016 report into virtual reality estimates that the live events VR/AR market will be worth $4.1bn by 2025.

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The investment banking giants have also likened the projected rise of VR to the past PC and smartphone revolutions, stating:

“As the technology advances, price points decline, and an entire new marketplace of applications (both business and consumer) hit the market, we believe VR/AR has the potential to spawn a multibillion-dollar industry, and possibly be as game changing as the advent of the PC.”

VR – then and now

So far, VR’s Achilles heel has been that it is too expensive for the mainstream market.

Headsets by HTC and Oculus, whom Facebook acquired back in 2014 in a deal worth two billion dollars, all come with a hefty price tag.

Two cost-effective alternatives are the Samsung Gear and Google Cardboard which can be used with your smartphone.

PlayStation has also made in ways with a more affordable model for existing gamers and demand for these less advanced models has been rife.

According to the same report, it took 48 hours for Amazon and BestBuy stocks of the Samsung Gear to sell out when priced at $99.

And with more apps and an inevitable release from Apple expected, it’s only a matter of time before the VR dam breaks.

Using 360 videos to craft VR experiences

There’s little doubt that VR will revolutionise our modern world.

We’ve already seen how architects can use VR to tour construction sites and buildings.

360 video has enabled brands to create immersive experiences, like rollercoaster rides and walking tours of some of the world’s most famous landmarks.

If you’ve yet to experience 360 video, I suggest you check out one of the many impressive YouTube videos made using custom GoPro rigs or the new Sphere lense.

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We’ve also been experimenting with VR and 360 video at Social Chain, creating video tours and immersive experiences for our audiences.

The next step for us will be to create immersive live streams to boost engagement figures for our clients.

The outlook for VR and 360 video

The content crush has meant that only the most compelling online works will stand out.

Remember, the aim is to evoke an emotional reaction – amazement and awe spring to mind when talking about 360 video.

Time is precious and nowadays audiences, whatever their demographic, will only engage with content that carries real value.

360 video couldn’t have come at a more convenient time, especially when you consider the rising popularity of live streaming.

How content creators will use VR as a wider medium is yet to be established.

However, it’s only a matter of time before new developments expand the capabilities of VR and 360 video.

If 2016 was the year of change, 2017 is shaping up to be the year of movement (see our survival guide for more tips on getting through it).

The outlook for VR and 360 video is beyond exciting. Rest assured, this is just the beginning.

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