Interactivity, Feelings and VR entertainment

It’s 3:30AM so I thought “Why yes it’s a perfect time to write another Medium post.”

On that note I’m gonna cheat a bit as I recently wrote to a producer friend of mine who was asking about Interactivity in VR so I’ll copy paste part of my response as the article (note: he produces expensive Hollywood movies that cost 100mil plus to make and people actually pay to go see). I figured if he was interested in it — it might be time to get a good reference together for everyone.

Havana, Cuba — Rolling Stones concert

I should note here that while Devon Dolan’s piece was a great start in framing what he calls the axioms of VR stories (if you haven’t seen that read it — and also listen to Kent’s interview with Devon here) I feel like their framework is a little bit too abstract for a lot of people so I decided to approach things a different way.

Interactivity is an interestingly loaded word in VR — because basically there are(broadly speaking) 5 types of interactivity the way I see it — and they depend on the device being used and the type of content being consumed…

1. Rotational
This is the most basic — viewer can rotate their head around to look at various different angles of the world

DEVICE — Every headset
CONTENT — All 360 video and all Computer generated VR content allows this

2. Positional
This gets a little subtle — what I mean specifically here is the ability for your body to move slightly left/right and up/down and the device/content in question to understand this movement.

DEVICE — Tethered VR devices (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Sony PS VR) are able to do this because they use external trackers. Untethered devices (in other words Samsung Gear VR or any Google Cardboard or anything Apple is likely to release) CANNOT support this (keyword — currently — because Google is already working on Project Tango and I’m sure Apple has an equivalent which will allow positioning support without external trackers. Hololens already has this using real-time image analysis)

CONTENT — Computer Generated VR content (whether games or stories) CAN support this. 360 video CANNOT support this — because basically you can only “go” where the camera has been.

3. Movement
This means being able to move through the VR world — forwards and backwards — running or walking or driving or any other form of locomotion.

DEVICE — Any device can support this — but it does require an additional form of input. You could click or tap on a particular point on screen — or just look at it for more than a few seconds. Real-time feedback requires additional devices here (think of it as a sort of joystick for VR). This stuff is easy if you are on the Vive, Sony or Oculus tethered devices because you already have another controller in your hands — but with mobile VR — which is the bulk of anticipated usage — there is no standard controller for now)

CONTENT — 360 video content CANNOT support this type of interaction — again because you can only go/observe where a camera has been. Computer generated content, however — CAN allow this type of experience. (People are currently experimenting with using photogrammetry or other computational photography techniques to allow you to walk around photorealistic environments — but we are still years out from that being believable/affordable.)

4. Manual
This specifically means being able to see your hands in front of you as you move your arms around. This could also mean you could interact with objects in the virtual world.

DEVICES — All the tethered platforms have hand trackers as accessories. 
No mobile devices currently have hand controllers on the market (though Samsung has shown prototypes that work fairly well — I played with them at CES —

CONTENT — Needless to say 360 video is once again out of the question when it comes to this. But games and/or computer generated narratives could/will support these types of controllers.

5. Branched narrative
I include this — because it’s a form of interactivity within a story — namely the ability for the story to respond to certain behaviours.
Personally I find this the most fascinating as a story-teller. Whether the triggers for branching are gaze or gesture driven — the story could change depending on what you do — so it becomes a sort of choose-your-own-adventure experience.

DEVICES — all devices support this

CONTENT — 360 video COULD support this.
Of course — Gaming/Computer generated stories could also support this.

ok rant over ;)

Everyone assumes that the ultimate form of entertainment is completely interactive — and the end result of that — is to support ALL of the above mentioned forms of interactivity. But I think it’s far too early to make this generalisation. For me the ultimate form of entertainment is stuff that makes me feel. (Laugh, cry, giggle, get angry etc etc)

Games very very rarely do this.
Movies do it all the time.