Digital Hollywood was buzzing this week about Google Cardboard during VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) panels at the Ritz Carlton in Marina del Rey, California. To take you there, we captured insights from the “VR for Everyone: Mobile VR and AR – Compelling Experience – Opening the Doorway to the Consumer” Panel moderated by Craig Dalton, Co-Founder and CEO, DODOcase, by the pool on a hot fall day.
The big buzz for this VR panel was “Google Cardboard” because it’s only about seven months old, and is an innovative way Google is bringing VR to the masses. This inexpensive cardboard viewer easily transforms your everyday mobile phone into a VR experience. For only $6.50 – $13.00 on Amazon, you can be set up to use VR with your smartphone.
To dig deeper on the technology and future, this VR panel provided more insights:
Aaron Luber, Head of Partnerships, Google Cardboard
Andy Cochrane, Interactive and New Media Director, Special Projects Lead, Mirada Studios
Michael Yang, Managing Director, Comcast Ventures
Joel Susal, Director, VR/AR, Dolby Labs
Scott Broock, VP of Content, Jaunt
Daniel Surya, Group CEO of WIR, Co-Founder & Chairman of AR & Co
Andy Cochrane (Mirada Studios) explained the magic of VR this way, “VR works because it’s presenting a discreet image to each of my eyes and there’s no high speed gimmicky to try to trick my eyes…VR headsets work in stereo for people in a way that regular glasses do not work.”
To take this VR experience into the entertainment arena, Andy described a new “Virtual Movie Theater.” He expanded, “Netflix has activated voice chat so you can watch with someone else. You can watch the same movie over the Internet, and be able to voice chat with each other. A market for 2D presented in VR with that tweak turns it into a social experience.” (This experience sounds exciting, but why not just talk on your cell phones during the movie?)
When asked about whether we are ready for VR, Aaron Luber (Google Cardboard) described the technology this way; “There are no limits in technology. These things exist today. There are people in emerging parts of the world that deal with just trying to watch a YouTube on their phone with insufficient bandwidth, and we are doing things to address that – either caching files on phones or delivering with lower bandwidth. These things will solve themselves.”
To put VR’s technology and quality into perspective, Scott Broock (Jaunt) emphasized, “When we talk about Cinematic VR, Mobile VR,…remember the file form you are presenting, it’s an MP4 file. It has all the information for the world, left eye, right eye, audio file, baked into it. The file’s big and heavy in the computation phase, but it’s crunched down. And if you look at all the things that are working in our favor in the next few months, VP9 (open and royalty free video coding format developed by Google), all those things help us with the last mile where you get great quality in a smaller compression.”
When asked about what’s next, Aaron Luber (Google Cardboard) added, “For the future, we are very focused on Mobile VR, and continuing to use that smartphone as your VR experience.”
And just this week, The New York Times and Google Cardboard announced a partnership. On November 8th, NYT subscribers will receive a Cardboard-branded VR kit in the weekend newspapers delivered to doorsteps. This kit can be used with a compatible smartphone to watch a short VR film co-produced by The New York Times Magazine.
What will be even more fascinating to watch is how VR will enhance our lives in the future. The NFL is already using VR to supplement “on-field repetitions without all the physical wear and tear” (Eon CEO Brendan Reilly on CNBC). And to help the 1 in 68 children now born with some type of autism, VR is predicted to provide a safe environment where they can learn and practice job skills. This technology will be critical as these children turn 18 and enter the job market.
Big thanks to Digital Hollywood and all the VR experts who opened our eyes to this new and emerging technology. And if you haven’t done so already, go order your Google Cardboard!
© Liz H Kelly @LizHKelly, National Digital Entertainment Columnist