I recently spent a couple of days at the NAB NY Show (National Association of Broadcasters). It’s much smaller than the annual NAB Show held in Las Vegas every year, but it is definitely worth the time.
This year I focused my attention on VR (Virtual Reality). To be honest, as much as VR intrigues me I’m not sure it’s for me simply because I’m all about real experiences as opposed to virtual ones. Nevertheless, the future implications of this technology are mind-blowing.
NAB NY is much more limited on space than the Las Vegas conference so VR didn’t have much of a physical presence at the show. However, there were quite a few interesting floor talks that intrigued me and were well attended.
This technology is in its infancy but its also experiencing exponential growth. Naysayers predict it will go the way of 3-D TV sets but my instincts tell me otherwise. Right now its popularity is in the gaming industry but these sessions opened my eyes to numerous possibilities. But speaking of gaming, check out PokemonGo or this demo video from Oculus Connect 4.
In terms of filmmaking, it’s an immersive experience which touches upon all of our senses and is not just visual. In fact, there’s a term used in VR called “haptic” which means “relating to the sense of touch, in particular relating to the perception and manipulation of objects using the senses of touch and proprioception.” One filmmaker Alton Glass, described it as letting you get into someone else’s shoes and live the experience. Because it’s immersive it creates a more empathetic storytelling experience. Some doubters say it’s isolating, however, one speaker pointed out that you can actually be immersed with other people in the virtual experience.
Branding experiences in VR. Tom Westerlin of Nice Shoes makes some good points about using VR in advertising/branding:
- Once you put on a headset you have someone’s undivided attention
- VR can create a lot of feelings – love, excitement, empathy
- From a brand perspective, you can create a whole world.
- It’s suspended disbelief. It’s not a hard sell and one doesn’t feel like they are being marketed to.
- VR can offer a treasure trove of data by finding out what people are focusing on in a virtual story. Some see e-commerce using VR in the near future.
Travel – It’s perfect for an armchair traveler who may not have the funds or the access to certain places. Or perhaps VR is a great way to show off a property or resort. To be honest, I want to really experience a place, but there may be times that I don’t have access or I may simply want a better reference of a destination or hotel than what more traditional mediums offer. Look at this sample VR sample – is this a game or a virtual travel experience.
VR is being used in healthcare to minimize pain rather than to solely resort to drugs. That in itself is something to think about especially because we are experiencing an opioid epidemic. One spokesman pointed out that it can reduce pain impact by about 60-70%. It’s being used now to help people with autism learn as well as in challenging mental health disorders like PTSD. VR is also being used for medical training.
Education – Harvard Business School provides amazing VR experiences that used to be available only on their campus but are now available all over the world. Interesting to point out that the most valuable part of this experience isn’t just watching the videos but the discussion with the immersive community. What Harvard is doing with VR,
Entertainment – While VR is still in its infancy in this sector, it’s quite impressive. VR allows a venue to sell the best seat in the house a million times. IMAX opens first VR theater in LA.
Certainly, there are challenges to overcome with VR. Headsets need to be wireless, which is essential for growth in this medium. Bandwidth is not a challenge, but latency is because of the round trip delay. If you’re confused between AR and VR or 360, check out this video interview with a spokesperson from Radiant Images and listen to what they’re working on. And if you want more insight on where the experts think this technology is going then check out this TechCrunch article
It will be interesting to see what’s next in this technology. It will also be interesting to see if there will be any unintended consequences. Stay tuned.