Digital Memories in Virtual Reality

“Presence” in VR is one of the most difficult things to talk about with anyone who hasn’t experienced it. When viewing a high quality 360 video, you don’t *literally* feel like you’re there, but you feel enough like you’re there that it doesn’t matter. Maybe the easiest way to describe it is sharing the memories of whoever created the video.

A high quality 360 degree video viewed with a high-end VR headset is the closest approximation humanity currently has for an actual memory. In some ways it’s superior since it’s digitally stored and won’t fade. Obviously, only sight and sound are preserved, and poorly, but in a way that’s much more startlingly better than photographs are to paintings or 2-dimensional videos are to still photographs.

In 5 years or less, people won’t take still photos or 2-dimensional videos of their children, or pets or vacations. They’ll pull out a tiny 360 camera and place it on a tripod somewhere near the action. Twenty years later, they’ll be able to virtually experience their children’s first steps or birthday parties.

Campers will be able to relive their perfect camping spot in Yosemite, with a view nearly identical to the one they had around the campfire. Weddings can be captured in a much more complete way than they’ve ever been. Athletes will be able to relive their greatest accomplishments whenever they want. Nearly any experience where sight and sound are important can be saved with this technology and enjoyed later.

Even more powerfully, these digital memories can be shared with millions of people. I’ve never scuba-dived before, but this morning I experienced the memory of a diver somewhere off the coast of Taiwan. Thanks to the amazing and literally incredible power of Presence in modern VR, I was able to feel as though I was right there. Right where he was, doing what he did. I literally yelled out loud, “Oh wow!” when the video started.

Facebook and YouTube have had 360 degree videos for a year or so, and anyone can view them on a 2 dimensional surface and spin them around with their finger or a mouse, but doing so is kind of like imagining Star Wars having only seen a few still images.

Using an app like Virtual Desktop, you can download these 360 videos and then watch them with your HMD. Doing so turns them into the digital memories that I’m discussing here. The best ones to watch on the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive are the ones which have been recorded in 4k resolution.

With current 2016 technology, the visual and aural resolution of the digital memories leaves a lot to be desired. Details further away than a few feet are not super crisp and detailed. But, experiences captured in this way are very different from still photos or 20th century video. The Presence is the key and what will drive a huge revolution in consumer spending the likes of which have never been seen. Still photos and 2-dimensional videos will only remain popular up until the point at which VR surpasses them, which may take a decade or longer.

Below I share a few examples of fun and different memories. If you don’t have a VR device, your experience won’t feel like a memory at all, but rather like a gimmicky 2-dimensional video. If you do have an HMD, please use an app like Virtual Desktop to download them and experience them. I think you’ll be quite pleased sharing other people’s memories!

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