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After Mark Zuckerberg announced his decision to acquire the renowned virtual reality (VR) device startup Oculus for two billion dollars, the tech industry and media have all turned their eyes back on the virtual reality and augmented reality market, which has seen cheaper production and a capability to satisfy a wider range of needs. This is despite the current dominance of smartphones in the handheld segment, which boasted over 2.6 billion users last year.
Late last year, NextVR, an entertainment and live-streaming service startup with a conviction that VR technology will revolutionize the entertainment industry, raised $ 30.5 million of Series A funding, and has announced this year that it will join forces with Live Nation, a global entertainment company, to broadcast major concerts via applications connected to the Oculus Rift and Samsung’s Gear VR to offer a new concert experience. NextVR has previously livestreamed NBA matches and US Golf Tournament with VR technology as well.
The Facebook tycoon and NextVR are hardly the only two people who believe this technology can be a platform of the future that will replace cellphones. Chris Milk, a well-known music video director and CEO of IT Within (previously known as Verse) who has incorporated VR in filmmaking, is convinced that this technology can venture far beyond its current role as a money maker in the entertainment industry. He recounted his work experience in TED 2015 that VR is a powerful tool in creating empathy and deepening our understanding of fellow human beings.
Clouds Over Sidra is the world’s first documentary film to be shot with VR technology. Directed by Chris and Gabo Arora, a Senior Advisor at the United Nations, the film shows the life of a Syrian girl named Sidra, who was in a refugee camp in Jordan with her family for a year and a half. The film was premiered at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland and exploited the ability of VR technology to simulate a realistic 360O environment, immersing the political and economic leaders around the world in the virtual environment of the refugee camp and giving them a taste of the life there in the hope that they would finally make genuine efforts to solve the problem.
The film succeeded in expanding the dimensions of storytelling, divulging social issues, and changing the commonly held attitude that VR traps people in the world of illusion. Chris once stated in an interview that the role of VR would advance once everyone could access the ‘experience’ the way the internet gave us access to information and enabled us to transcend all the boundaries. “Once you outgrow the hype, you will find that VR is a medium for human experience.”
AR/VR also gives a light of hope for the fields of medicine and education. MIT, for instance, used VR devices to simulate underwater experience to study deafness, while researchers at the University of Pennsylvania made use of VR to study patients with mental disorders and depression.
In the near future, it is possible that interactions on social media through images and texts may be replaced with VR-driven ones. Also, we might see TV and Hollywood producers meet their demise or move to niche markets because they cannot adapt quickly enough and catch up with the ability of 3D VR technology to fulfill new entertainment demands. Similarly, movie theaters might also shutter their businesses as VR technology brings new-release movies right into our living rooms, obviating our needs to leave our homes to get tickets. Current technological advances have proven that regardless of the extent to which they can venture and expand the boundaries of possibilities, they will eventually be brought back to satisfy our growing and infinite needs.
Find more information at the annual symposium CU 2016: EXIT this October.
TED Talk – “Chris Milk: How virtual reality can create the ultimate empathy machine”
TED Talk – “Chris Milk: The birth of virtual reality as an art form”
“Disability-Simulating VR Promotes Empathy” by Christina Couch
“Live Nation & NextVR to Broadcast Hundreds of Live Performances in VR” by Scott Hayden
Photo by Pujohn Das/ Space10
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