Making Virtual Reality More Accessible
If a tree falls in a virtual world, but no one has a headset, binaural audio, or an expensive PC so they could watch it fall…did it really happen?
Virtual reality hardware makers and content producers are busily building up the value proposition of virtual reality; the better the experience, the more consumers who will buy in. But it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg dilemma. How do you entice audiences to buy in to virtual reality before the technology and content offerings have matured? And how do you have the resources and consumer data to make a great product before the audience has congealed?
“VR is the next inflection point for [telling] great stories and the way to do that is with compelling technology,” says Jaunt’s new Chief Revenue Officer JP Colaco, who also told VideoInk, that the “mile markers” for VR’s impending growth are already visible, despite various hurdles, including its accessibility.
But the early-adopters and innovators press on nevertheless. Here are three companies working to solve VR’s access problem today:
IMAX is bringing the movie theater model to virtual reality. The company launched its flagship “VR Experience Centre” in Los Angeles (near the Grove) earlier this year. IMAX knows that a high quality VR setup costs upwards of $1K, so the opportunity to buy tickets to visit a VR theater space and go home afterwards is appealing to tourists and LA early adopters alike. The model replicates the “VR cafe” in eastern Asia. You can buy tickets ahead of time, but walk-ins are welcome. Reportedly, “the IMAX VR Center has already seen over 5,000 visitors come through their doors, 75% of which have never experienced VR in their lifetime. And the momentum is strong, with IMAX stating that paid admissions have been increasing 75% week over week.” IMAX plans to launch five additional pilot locations this year, including some centers that will share space with traditional movie theaters.
Drop in. Suit up. Lose your mind. IMAX VR is the best virtual reality experience available. Gather your friends, pick…imaxvr.imax.com
Kitsplit connects creators and the gear they need to create. It’s essentially a camera gear rental company that conveniently solves the VR access problem. A quick search on Kitsplit for “VR & Edge Tech” in Los Angeles revealed both 360 camera and VR setup offerings. You can rent VR 360 Camera Nokia OZO for $2500 per day, or a HTC Vive setup for $200 per day. It’s a great solution for events, creators with modest resources or limited space, and allows consumers to experience VR without investing in a full setup.
Stanford’s Computational Imaging Lab
Stanford’s Computational Imaging Lab is solving the “VR headache” problem that results from eyes that are tired of focusing on a fixed point and expanding VR to users with glasses. Researchers are developing a technology called “adaptive focus display,” which adjusts the screen using either liquid lenses or mechanically adjusting the lenses a la binoculars.
“The system also incorporates eye-tracking technology to determine where on the screen the user is looking. In conjunction with the eye-tracking technology, software ascertains where the person is trying to look and controls the hardware to deliver the most comfortable visual display. The software can account for whether a person is nearsighted or farsighted but cannot yet correct for another vision issue called astigmatism. With these displays, VR users would not need glasses or contacts to have a good visual experience.”
The researchers are in touch with VR hardware companies, who have a vested interest in personalizing VR headsets to make the viewing experience as smooth as actual reality.
Researchers are developing a type of virtual reality display that adapts to differences in how we see depending on…news.stanford.edu
Accessibility is key to the success of virtual reality as a content industry. The experience itself has to be available, affordable, and comfortable for consumers in as many demographics as possible. While hardware and software companies generate cutting edge headsets and experiences, others tackle the logistical and technical challenges of making virtual reality accessible to all.