On the first of November we were delighted to attend the Royal Television Society’s early evening event on Virtual Reality and 360 degree Storytelling, held at the Hospital Club.
Stands were sponsored by upcoming VR players such as Homido, Jaunt, Mativision, Nexus and Sky, where delegates could try out the latest technologies in virtual reality and 360 degree video, such as a headset and controllers which allow you to draw 3D designs in the air around you. With Sony PlayStation VR having just been released and the launch of Google Daydream imminent, this event was an opportune moment to try out cutting edge technology before it hits the mainstream.
A panel of experts discussed the consumer appeal and challenges of the market that face these new technologies. Event chair, journalist Kate Bulkley, invited the panel to make a comparison between VR television and 3D TV. After all, manufacturers and broadcasters cast similar hype to the latter which has now largely disappeared from the market.
Ken Blakeslee, chair of consultants WebMobility Ventures, noted that the industry had been trying for years to make 3D work on a 2D screen. VR technology has the advantage in that respect as the feeling of complete immersion and emotional connection when wearing a VR headset are much more heightened, “transport[ing] you to new places and giv[ing] you new experiences”, as Sky VR executive producer Neil Graham put it. Spencer Kelly, presenter of the BBC tech magazine show Click, added that while he was sceptical of 3D the technology of VR “really does feel immersive”. Earlier this year Click filmed an entire episode in 360 degree video.
Tamzin Taylor, representing New Business Development at Google discussed the launch of their latest virtual reality headset, titled Daydream (released on 10th November, priced £69). The headset is made of lightweight fabric and works with a controller as well as a compatible smartphone; a step up in terms of comfort and technology from their first headset, Google Cardboard. She commented that unlike 3D, VR is cheap and accessible with Google technology, and the interactivity and controllability of VR gives it a significant edge to 3D and earlier technology.
Taylor stressed that in order to break VR into the mainstream, the content has to be compelling and refreshing enough so that consumers come back to your app time and time again. Kelly thought the main driver of virtual reality will be the games industry, speculating that VR will remain a niche market until viewers can wear comfortable VR glasses as opposed to headsets. However, technology is developing rapidly, with a large number of patents already pending for various types of glasses and contact lenses; “we’ll be laughing at the headsets that we’ve got at the moment in two or three years time”, said Graham.
Thank you to the Royal Television Society for another inspiring event.