Over the last few days, the BVE (Broadcast Video Expo) took place in London. We had the chance to visit the fair and learn a bit more on the current state of the art VR-technic and to listen to what people think, might happen with the VR.
During a talk by BBC Earth Productions Executive Producer Charlotte Jones, and panel discussions on the furture of VR, it became clear that VR can be used as an excellent storytelling but also an excellent story-doing medium. And there are three key points that sum up why – presence, interaction and control.
Presence: VR has the ability to transport people to different locations. The nature documentaries might want to bring you to places in the natural world you would otherwise never see, whilst music companies might want to teleport you to a live concert. High resolution and live streaming, as well as the fact that you cannot do anything else whilst watching VR (no one can play with his/her mobile phone or cook dinner with VR glasses or helmet) can make VR a truly immersive experience.
Interaction: Other than “normal” films or documentaries, VR allows the user to interact with the content. For example, BBC Earth in cooperation with Oculus will soon be releasing three VR videos. One of these, Cat Flight, educates the user on the unique hunting technique of the Caracal Cat. In order to do this, CGI-animations of the Caracal Cat are integrated within the VR video sequences, allowing to freeze and investigate the predator animal up close before jumping back to the storyline. In another BBC VR project, Oogie, the user plays an animated Oogpister Beetle which he/she guides through the African Savannah, whilst stopping now and then to watch clips on real-life Oogpister Beetles. And these are only two examples of ways of interacting.
Control: This might be the essential point of the story-doing. Actually giving the user the ability to make decisions within a VR experience, makes him/her to the narrator, creating the story on the go. This is for example used in the third BBC Earth project, Bear Island, which has integrated alternative storylines. Thus, depending on which way the user decides to go within the VR video, he/she either learns more about the Canadian Ghost bears or the art of Salmon fishing. It is probable, that the cooperation between VR techniques and the gaming industry will lead to even more options of giving the user control within the VR experience.
All in all, hearing experts, developers and programmers talk on the use and future of VR did illustrate, how likely it is that this medium will gain in importance within the next years.
Obviously, there still are quite a few question out there for VR. Such as: Will VR be used in the cinema one day? How can VR audio best be implemented? Should VR have an age-restriction? Will VR really become the norm one day?
For most of the questions, time will tell us the answers – probably sooner than we can imagine.