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South by Southwest

Virtual Reality Chatter

The Speed

Each year now in VR tech development is like 12 years.

Much like Marvel’s Flash, the improvements are coming at lightning speed.


The technophiles waiting with bated breath were disappointed when Oculus Rift’s 22–year old founder, Palmer Luckey said, “”We don’t have anything to announce — let’s just get that out of the way”. The folks at Oculus, however, feel that this year is like the Silent Movie era in film-making – there’s so much more to come.

While, Oculus have stopped hitting the accelerator, other developers and aspiring game moguls are gunning for the top spot. I think it’s the industry of the fast and the furious.

Last year, the line-up at SXSW to try the Oculus rift was huge as people wanted to engage into the immersive content. Now that content is loaded onto my iPhone and I can view that and way more on the Zeiss VR goggles I bought for $100.

The Experience

The experiences are growing more varied as the content creators figure out who the audience is. They’re working on hitting the WOW nerve.


What that experience should do is remove the wall between the observer and the observed. Putting you, the viewer, next to a basketball player on the sidelines or take you to the Antarctic (sans the expensive tickets) is the goal.

There are many apps available now like PolarSea 360 to get your feet wet in the experience.

The workflow for the creation of VR has its own pioneering feel. Every company I’d spoken to is developing their own cameras to shoot VR. In a Digital Domain presentation, they revealed a machined ball, about 10” in diameter with multiple lenses all over the body.

It’s still so early in the VR days that everyone is designing proprietary cameras, so it’s all hush-hush.

The Acoustics


Another critical element of the VR experience is the audio. It informs the viewer where to look. Currently, you can view the immersive content in a spinning chair so you can get the breadth of the full 360º. Some of the new cameras being developed incorporate mics into their designs.

There has been much talk about the nausea factor watching VR: basically your brain knows something is not in front of you, while your eyes say it is. That conflict can lead to nausea.

As in 3D, there may still be a part of the population that will not be able to use the VR. Many manufacturers are working towards an ideal goggle, but content will have to work hand in hand.

What does this mean to marketers? 

Sure, you can have a 360º visual/aural experience to demonstrate a product of service. But there is a key technology that I have seen only in a few presentations.

It is a version of gaze tracking or, similar to a Kinect, a system wherein a scan of your body, triggers control. Think of it this way: your gaze at a hotspot causes an action. Think Tony Stark in Iron Man.


This hotspot technology, can be employed within a branded piece of content. Imagine what can be done. You look around a room, for instance, and see a piece of furniture that catches your eye. With just a gaze,  you get more info emailed to you—and you never have to leave the experience.

Phenomenal. It took a while but I found a company at SXSW who works with this technology. None of the majors were doing it.

At SXSW, the VR experience ranged from the high-minded with the big players like Pixar and Oculus Rift, to the independents like IDFA doculabs, Robert Overweg, young VR companies, like the Bui Brothers to Emmy winning Ian Hunter of New Deal Studios. Some advertisers are already in the space, like Volvo.

I would suggest picking up some goggles, downloading some of the content that currently exists, and getting on board because the future is here…and it’s wild!

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