Consumer grade virtual reality is fast becoming a thing of reality. Enormous, chunky looking helmets in arcades or shopping malls which you’d only try for a bit fun with some mates, have shrunk down to smaller units of equal silliness which you might play with at home. Or on a train if you’re daring.
Silly as they may seem, given enough time and clever designing, VR headsets may become an everyday item in anything from light entertainment and video games, through to cutting edge sales tools and training simulators. While there are apps that will allow you to watch regular TV and movies on your VR headset in your own simulated theatre (I’ll get to those), the crucial thing to make these devices worthwhile is 360 degree content.
Now if you haven’t got the budget to recreate the hundreds of cameras used in Bullet time from The Matrix, there are a series of cameras and rigging options that are allowing the smaller budget productions to enter the 360 game.
Two such options are the V360 panorama video, or one of the 360 Heroes go pro rigs. The V360 will set you back $449, and will shoot a complete 360 angle horizontally, and 60 degrees vertically.
The 360 Heroes products shoot a full 360 degree angle, but are a little pricier. A basic full 360 rig will cost $495, and have all been designed to hold GoPros (sold separately).
You can then use apps like Autopano Video from Kolor to stitch the videos together and create a 360 degree interactive video.
So how can I watch my amazing 360 videos, or anyone else’s for that matter? Well that depends on your budget. And your phone. Apple users will be sad to know that unless you’re using something like the Oculus Rift, which has a screen for each eye, other units require an Android phone to act as a viewing screen. For around $400 you can get yourself a Rift, or for $230 you can get the Samsung Gear VR, which fits a Samsung Note 4 phone.
For those that just want to play with the technology without a high quality headset, you can get on good old Ebay and buy Google Cardboard for about $4. This is something Google developed as a gift to give out at a conference promoting VR technology. Though it is literally made of cardboard and has cheap plastic lenses that make your eyes hurt after a while (hey, it was four dollars!..what did you expect?) it gives you a pretty good idea of what the immersive technology can do – as well as being an amazingly fun and nerdy experience. You can download the Cardboard app and many more from the play store, and start wandering around your house or office, laughing at things only you can see while you crane your neck in every direction.
So where could you use this technology? Already it’s in use for video games, but it also lends itself very easily to the outdoors and wide open spaces – a travel experience without even needing to leave your house. How about video blogs? Live events like rock concerts or even live streams from an erupting volcano? Roller coasters, property walkthroughs, even training and product demonstrations.
This technology is rapidly moving from a novelty item of the 80’s to a sophisticated immersive content delivery system. Soon it won’t be so strange to see someone on the train with a VR headset strapped to their face, having a wonderful time in their own little world. But hopefully they won’t forget to take it off from time to time and experience reality. It has a higher quality image…for now.