Let's begin at the beginning - what is Virtual Reality?
In my world, 'Virtual Reality' is considered immersive story: narrative, gaming, interactive, live-action, or animation - that involves the audience, and takes them a major step closer to the story than they ever could when watching on a screen or television.
The creator of virtual reality (VR) content WANTS the audience to be immersed, and - like me, will try all sorts of VR technology in order to achieve the goal.
You most likely have the technology you need to watch VR.
I've worked with VR content the audience views on their smartphone or laptop; looking around a 360 immersive world. The 'immersive' part comes just by being able to see everything! I made a 360 video last September on the beach in Los Angeles for my documentary film Pioneers in Skirts.
Interested in trying out the possibilities of VR?
But you don't want to dish out thousands for the whole gaming system?? I invest in a VR goggle.
As I venture more into the world of VR content creation, I have come to realize I need to create content the everyday viewer can (and will want to) see. I started out by researching what's out there for consumers, and what's coming down the pipeline. After purchasing my ticket to attend the January 2016 CES -- the biggest consumer technology show in the world, I purchased VR goggles to get a first-hand user experience.
There are several pretty good options that cost $100 or less. I bought MergeVR Goggles (retail $99) -- goggles that work with pretty much any smartphone. I've read they are super easy to use: simply slide the phone into a slot at the top of goggles.
I opened the box and learned...
The MergeVR Goggles are made up of a plastic foam that fit nicely around your head (and your glasses if you need them like I do). I like the MergeVR because I don't fear they'll break or get scratched thanks to the foam and disinfectant wipes are easy to use when passing the goggles from person to person).
I discovered that I needed a newer smartphone to play the more advanced applications (and I do...I have a HTC One A9 that worked out great).
I started off by playing with a basic app (I chose a haunted house VR app because that's the kind of person that I am), pressed all the necessary 'let's get started' buttons in the app, and then put the phone in the Goggles. Be sure you have gotten through all of the prompts in your VR game before you slide in the phone. It's a real bummer when you select the app, put the phone in your goggles and then realize you have to take it back out to click okay. Ugh! The lameness!
My cat is clearly not sure about VR glasses.
I have tried VR applications in the past, specifically at the AFI VR Fest back in November 2015. One thing they did that I liked - they had me sit in a chair on wheels that can spin around. This allowed me to turn all around without having to move my head too much. It also helped with motion sickness, which I am unfortunately prone to experiencing.
Animated games and interactive environments are king right now in the smartphone category.
This particular haunted house app started out with scary music which got me excited for the experience - but I was home for the holidays...and my Mom tossed something to me that landed near me, and I screamed at the sound. Thanks Mom. I clearly was immersed!
Once I figured out how to move around the haunted house (press in the little knobs on top of the MergeVR Goggles), then I was really exploring. I was opening doors. I'd look in a direction and then move forward. This game didn't have the ability to move backwards yet, which was apparent when I saw a huge spider on the wall and couldn't help but walk right into it. I was so freaked out, I threw the goggles off my head and turned off the app. I wasn't about to deal with that 'reality'! Again, good thing those goggles were foam...
The motion sickness was very real.
Sometimes it was hard to keep my eyes focused on what was moving around me; and, as I tried to keep focus, I was also moving around the room. Keep in mind, I was still sitting on my couch. All of this made me feel a little woozy - not while I was actually in the game, but when I took the goggles off. I had to take a minute on the couch. Regain my composure. Walk around a bit. Then I was good.
There you have it. My first attempt in the at-home VR goggle space. Again, it's worth investing in a $100 goggle to better immersive yourself and understand what all the hype is about.
I will be making a series of narrative live-action VR shorts in the coming months. I plan to create content that people can easily enjoy, learn from, and access. It's a new way of viewing, so I think it's important to gradually ease people into the possibilities of VR and how it can improve a story experience. And I think people need to appreciate it's not all about the gaming!
But, hey -- yeah, the gaming is quite fun :).
Okay - go VR! And tell me about it!
I'll keep telling you. Follow along as I post what I learn and see at CES -- here, and on Twitter @AshleyMaria.