The first wave of virtual reality cinemas, heralding what their creators claim will be an entertainment revolution, rolls out across the world this month.
“Film as we know it will be dead in the next five to 10 years.”
— founder of the world’s first VR cinema in Amsterdam.
The first screening room in France opened Wednesday and several others are promised for Beijing, Shanghai and Los Angeles in the next few weeks.
Like the early days of cinema, virtual reality — or VR — is still something of a novelty sideshow.
But not for long, its supporters claim.
“Film as we know it will be dead in the next five to 10 years,” said the founder of the world’s first VR cinema in Amsterdam.
“The VR revolution is already happening. 2016 is year zero of this revolution.”
— Jip Samhoud
“It’s a whole different way of telling the story. I think it is really what we are moving towards in the entertainment world,” Jip Samhoud said.
Elisha Karmitz, who is behind the MK2 screening room in Paris, insisted “that the VR revolution is already happening.
“2016 is year zero of this revolution,” he added.
For €12 ($13) you can feel what it is like to fly like a bird for 20 minutes through a forest of New York skyscrapers in the film “Birdly.”
Lying flat on your stomach suspended from the ceiling, you change direction with electronic “wings” placed on your arms, and speed up by flapping them faster.
MK2, which has signed a deal with the acclaimed Chinese film director Jia Zhangke to produce more content, predicts that with the cost of producing VR film falling, its time is coming fast.
Keen not to be left behind, Hollywood is also investing in the technology, with a few minutes of the new “Assassin’s Creed” film already available in VR. There is also a “Star Wars”-inspired game in which the viewer becomes an X-wing fighter pilot like Luke Skywalker. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s been around for decades, but virtual reality has been anything but real for most people. That’s about to change as a slew of new virtual-reality technologies get set to tempt your wallet. Some of them are even available in time for this year’s holidays.
This is Scientific American’s 60-Second Science. I’m Larry Greenemeier. Got a minute? Virtual reality started off as a way for scientists to visualize their research. Ken Perlin, a computer science professor and pioneer in the field of virtual reality, explains:
[Ken Perlin:] The first people who seriously developed virtual reality were Ivan Sutherland and his student Bob Sproull back in 1968. They built a very large device, which they nicknamed the “Sword of Damocles” because it was a very large contraption that hung over your head and carried the headset with it as it moved around on a giant boom arm.”
New gadgets expected to launch in 2016 will be a bit more sophisticated.
[Perlin:] “The major commercial releases of virtual reality that will appear in the first half of 2016 track your head, and they track your two hands.
[Perlin:] “In order to have a full social experience with other people of being in a world together, you also need to know where your feet are. Once you know your head and your hands and your feet, then you can build a computer graphic representation of everybody.”
This version promises to address a major problem the technology faced in the past.
[Perlin:] “Motion sickness was a problem when the delay between my head movement and the graphics that I saw exceeded a certain threshold, generally about a 10th of a second. Modern technologies that make use of these inertial trackers in the headsets have pretty much gotten rid of that.”
Virtual reality will first invade our homes offices and classroomsthrough games and educational tools. But Perlin thinks the technology will become much more than that over time. Read the rest of this entry »
For the first time ever, a virtual reality recording system will be flown in space. The project, announced by Deep Space Industries (DSI), will use a spherical video capture system to create a virtual reality float-through tour of the International Space Station‘s science lab.
Feeding into the exciting growth of VR systems created by Oculus Rift, Sony, and Samsung, this project, initiated by DSI, is a cooperative effort with Thrillbox, and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), managers of the ISS U.S.
National Laboratory. This innovative partnership will allow, for the first time, anyone with a VR headset to have a fully immersive astronaut experience aboard the International Space Station. Additionally, CASIS will use the spherical video to familiarize potential researchers with the scientific facilities on the ISS National Lab.
“The space station is packed with equipment, literally in every direction. Gear is built into the walls, embedded in the floor, and tucked into the ceiling,” said
David Gump, DSI Vice-Chair. “The spherical video captured during a float through will enable people to look everywhere, as they would if they were up in the station themselves.”
Deep Space Industries began the project as an early step in developing VR systems to be used for exploring and mining asteroids, and brought in Thrillbox to focus on distributing the captured images to the greatest number of people.
The partnership between Thrillbox and DSI provides the right combination of expertise in space operations and virtual reality, creating a successful project that provides value for CASIS and offers a unique experience to consumers.
The ISS Floating Tour, in addition to being an amazing experience for high-end devices such as the upcoming retail Oculus Rift and PlayStation headsets, also will be viewable on high-resolution smartphones and tablets.
“As excitement about spherical video spreads to more people, Thrillbox is providing a universal player for web sites and personal computers that delivers a sophisticated way to handle this new format,” said Benjamin Durham, CEO of Thrillbox. “The partnership with DSI will allow us to distribute this unique space experience to consumers around the world.”
A video capture rig with multiple cameras covering a spherical field of view will provide a “you-are-there” experience never before available. In addition to entertaining consumers, this detailed video will be used by CASIS for educating potential researchers and potentially by NASA for familiarizing future ISS crews with the ever-changing internal arrangement of the station’s gear and supplies. Read the rest of this entry »
Rachel Metz writes: I’m sitting in Gordon Wetzstein’s lab at Stanford University with a hacked-together prototype of a head-mounted display strapped to my face, using a wireless Xbox controller to manipulate a series of 3-D models: a lion, a chessboard filled with chess pieces, an espresso machine, and so on.
“…the technology has improved immensely in the last couple years, there are still plenty of crucial issues to be sorted out—among them that feeling of motion sickness that some people like myself have when experiencing virtual reality, which arises from what’s known as vergence-accommodation conflict.”
The images are fairly simple, run-of-the-mill models—the kind that anyone could download from the Internet. What is interesting, though, is what happens as I stare at the models, turning them with the controller so I can inspect them from different angles: I can focus on the different parts of the images at different depths as I would when gazing at something in real life, so when I look at, say, the chess pieces up close, those in the background look fuzzy, and vice versa when I focus on the pieces in the distance. And I don’t feel nauseous or dizzy like I sometimes do when I’m playing around with virtual reality, especially when looking at objects that are close to my face.
“In real life, when you’re looking at something—a flower, for instance—your eyes move and the lens in each eye adjusts to bring whatever’s in front of you into focus. With stereoscopic 3-D, a technology commonly used by companies making virtual reality headsets, things gets trickier.”
Virtual reality is on the verge of commercial availability, with consumer-geared headsets like the Oculus Rift poised for release next year (see “Oculus Shows Its First Consumer Headset, Circular Hand Controls”). Yet while the technology has improved immensely in the last couple years, there are still plenty of crucial issues to be sorted out—among them that feeling of motion sickness that some people like myself have when experiencing virtual reality, which arises from what’s known as vergence-accommodation conflict.
This conflict is what Wetzstein, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, and other researchers at Stanford are trying to solve with the headset I tried on, which they call a light field stereoscope—essentially, a device that uses a stack of two LEDs to show each eye a “light field” that makes virtual images look more natural than they typically do.
Students at The University of Pennsylvania have created DORA, a robot that both mimics the movements of and sends visual information to a virtual reality headset. Their goal is to give users the experience of actually inhabiting the robot’s body, even if it’s halfway around the world. WSJ‘s Christopher Mims reports.