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Day 1 of the Virtual Reality Symposium: Making VR

In case you missed it, the ACI Virtual Reality Symposium is happening right now. Speakers from across the spectrum of VR hardware and software manufacturers talked about their projects. The successes, the setbacks, and the potential of the VR market was all discussed. As the first day has finished, here are the three top issues that were discussed. Everyone spoke about very particular problems that concerned them, and not everyone had the same concerns. However, in a broad sense, this is what is currently on the mind of VR professionals.

The growth of VR

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Maybe it’s because it’s a collection of VR professionals, but the sense is very much that it is a sharply growing enterprise. It’s amazing just how many industries have begun jumping onto the bandwagon. For example, one of the speakers, Zia Zaman, works for Metlife Asia. For those not in the know, that is an insurance company, which Zaman admitted is one of the most boring industries worldwide. If even such tangential companies are beginning to see the potential benefits of VR, the possibility of growth is astounding.

Zia Zaman, Chief Innovation Officer, Asia and Head of Lumenlab, MetLife Innovation Centre
Zia Zaman, Chief Innovation Officer, Asia and Head of Lumenlab, MetLife Innovation Centre

Of course, this is still in the early stages. Emmanual Lusinchi, Game Director at Ubisoft Singapore, mentioned that this year VR is projected to be valued at $1billion. This seems like a lot, but regarding industry size, it’s paltry. Compared to the $400billion mobile industry, for example, it’s not even funny to compare. However, if enough people are involved and willing to take part in development, that S$220billion ballpark for 2020 does not seem too far-fetched.

Telling the Story

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Aside from the business aspect, several speakers latched onto a problematic issue with VR: telling the story. Jim Ribbans of Beach House Pictures, based here in Singapore, spoke about keeping the attention of a user in a VR story. Yes, you’re meant to be able to look around, but if you want to push a narrative forward, the user has to be paying attention. For Beach House Pictures, the solution was to include a host. That is not the only solution, but this was the most intriguing one mentioned. Ribbans said that they didn’t want to replace field trips, but this VR solution could achieve that. After all, it might be cheaper to get children to look around in their mobile VR viewers than to rent a bus and take a day out from school.

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There is also the issue of creating immersive content, which Singapore’s own Hiverlab discussed in their presentation. Ender Jiang, the founder of Hiverlab, made it very clear that the current 360-degree cameras on the market were not sufficient. That is, for home-grown YouTube videos they are adequate. For high-end productions, however, there are not many options. Thankfully companies are aiming to make producing your 360-degree videos easier. This could mean that we see a content revoltuion similar to what happened with Youtube the last few years, but for self-made VR content.

Selling the Image

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Emmanual Lusinchi, Game Director, Ubisoft Singapore

Maybe the most interesting, if not the most important, talk came from Lusinchi. Rather than spending the time talking about the great work that Ubisoft has done, he talked about a range of topics. Capping it off was the belief that it is no longer so important to make VR immersive to the user. Lusinchi argues that this has already been achieved and that “unless you screw up, you should manage this not problem.” For him, it’s making the technology immersive for audiences. He very correctly pointed out that no matter how amazing the experience is, you look ridiculous when using it in a crowd. As you can see below, he isn’t wrong:

So how do you solve this? Lusinchi says that when presenting VR, you need to make it look appealing to the people in Line. His suggestion is a bit drastic (involving synching real-time video with a digital background), but he makes a valid point. After all, the Nintendo Wii sold like hotcakes because everyone looked like they were having fun. It’s also, according to Lusinchi, Apple’s entire business model for their new Macbook. So, work out how to make VR look great to those not using it, and you’ve unlocked the next level.

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