Virtual Reality 2.0, It’s About the Video

Facebook’s purchase of Oculus a year or so ago has ignited a new frenzy of interest in Virtual Reality (VR). Let’s call it VR2.0 as the first go round during the 90's also had a huge amount of hype. There was a decent amount of industry interest but it ultimately collapsed as it was not cost effective and too early for the technology. The other big difference is the video, 360 degree spherical video to be specific.

I was involved with VR1.0 a bit, played around with $10K gloves and $5K helmets, great fun but totally impractical. The visuals were also entirely computer generated which was fine on a high-end Silicon Graphics workstations but were simplistic polygonal worlds with not a great deal of detail. Now, with VR2.0, there is one aspect that is new and hugely interesting. Videos that let you experience a world heritage site or concert or views of the Earth from outer space are truly compelling.

Spherical videos shot with an ever growing number of cameras are making it simple to create videos for playback in hardware (your cell phone!) that can detect the orientation of your head and adjust the view appropriately. Most of the videos are mono not true stereo but it’s really the responsiveness to head movement that sucks you in (immerses) to the scene. YouTube and new sites like vrideo are capable of distributing this new type of content.

The race is on as content creators create increasingly compelling content. Sure there are lots of games in the making but my money is on video based content leading VR2.0 to the masses.