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Exploring the cutting edge of virtual reality

Virtual Reality - The Future is here

Here at Virtual Realms a passionate group of creatives, innovators and developers we will bring you the latest news and reviews on everything Virtual Reality

 

The Pixar of virtual reality has arrived - Oculus Story Studio

Resh Sidhu

Oculus just sent a ripple through the heart of the VR community, again! They are now experimenting with cinematic VR experiences in a newly revealed internal ‘Story Studio’ group. The first glimpse of the studio’s work, Lost, a CG VR short film, was shown at this week’s Sundance Film Festival. 

Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe says that while the company is “absolutely still all about games,” Story Studio, based in SF away from the core Oculus group, came about as a necessary touchstone for interfacing with cinema creatives.  So about a year ago the company started looking for people to form a small internal team to explore real-time CG cinema in virtual reality. 

Saschka Unseld, Director

Saschka Unseld, Director

Lost is roughly a four-minute short, which takes places in a moonlit forest, is intelligently designed so as to ease viewers into the virtual realm and guide them through the experience without the navigation mechanisms ever showing. And it's accomplished using a combination of Oculus VR's head-tracking tech, audio cues and discreet visual guides -- in this case, the firefly that initially greets you in Lost. 

I want to create emotions that are very appealing. I want you to come out of virtual reality and have a smile. Or [experience] something very touching emotionally, just like Pixar films do.
— Max Planck, Technical Director

Planck's team also experimented with the inclusion of "teleports" in Lost, these were moments where the viewer would be suddenly transported from one semi-fixed location to another. But the effect was ultimately too disorienting and required a "lull in the story" to allow the viewer to readjust; another element that would kill pacing.  The removal of teleports from Lost means much of the action, or story, unfolds at a set distance in front of the viewer

By exhibiting the short at Sundance, Story Studio hopes to attract the interest of other creatives and filmmakers. It's a release plan Planck says will be repeated with the five other shorts slated for this year. 

'Henry' or 'Codename: Kabloom,' Story Studio's upcoming comedic short and  Dear Angelica,'Story Studio's surrealistic virtual reality short.

I'm excited to see what the shorts are like in VR and Planck aims to address a technical challenge and further innovate the medium, much like Pixar does. That means Story Studio's future shorts could include successfully implemented gaze triggers, teleports or even "passage of time in virtual reality."

Ultimately, Planck says,

Story Studio is still just finding its way in the new medium, as much of the work is trial and error.

UN Launch Virtual Reality Film Following Syrian Refugee Girl - Clouds Over Sidra

Resh Sidhu

Clouds Over Sidra follows a twelve-year-old girl named Sidra in the Za’atari camp in Jordan — currently home to 84,000 refugees from the bloody Syrian civil war.

Fashion model Mari Malek (pictured), former Harry Potter star Emma Watson, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg were among the dignitaries at the World Economic Forum in Davos today backing the launch the new film, shot specifically for the Samsung Gear VR and powered by Oculus technology.

While documentaries may be able to present you with the facts, Clouds Over Sidra goes one step further by giving viewers a truly immersive VR look at a reality that many of us are unable to imagine being a part of.

THE IDEA IS TO HELP GENERATE EMPATHY TOWARD THE 3.5 MILLION SYRIAN REFUGEES LIVING OUTSIDE SYRIA

It’s the first ever film shot in virtual reality for the UN and is designed to support the UN’s campaign to highlight the plight of vulnerable communities, particularly refugees.

The film was released today on the VRSE channel on Milk VR USA as well as the VRSE application on iTunes and Google Play.

The First-Ever Virtual Reality Newscast at Sundance courtesy of VICE NEWS

Resh Sidhu

Imagine if you could walk into it any news broadcast and event as it unfolds. Well, you can now as Digital artist and video director Chris Milk, filmmaker and VICE creative director Spike Jonze have partnered to produce the first-ever virtual reality news broadcast, and it brings a new dimension to VR Journalism, putting you in the middle of NYC'S Millions March.

Initially delivered via Milk’s own VRSE app for iPhone and Android smartphones, the Vice News VR: Millions March film was shot using a 360-degree camera system that followed Vice News correspondent Alice Speri through the march, which came after the death of Eric Garner while he was being arrested by police.

Viewers can watch the film on their smartphones, including slotting the devices in to Google Cardboard virtual reality headsets for a fuller VR experience. Vice News says that the film will eventually be available for other headsets too – for example, the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift.

According to Spike Jonze, Creative Director at Vice News,

Chris and I have been talking a lot about the possibilities and future of VR filmmaking over the last year

One of the areas we are excited about is documentary and news, to create the experience of being there in the middle of events that are happening.
— Spike Jonze
If you combine their tenacity with the immersive power of virtual reality, what you get is an intense connection between audience and story
— Chris Milk

Filmmaker Chris Milk is a strong advocate of VR technology, having shot a concert by musician Beck and released it as a VR film – Hello, Again – for Oculus Rift. He is also planning to work with Vice News on more “VR journalism” projects, which is exceptionally exciting. 

Beck reimagined David Bowie's "Sound and Vision" for the launch of Lincoln's "Hello, Again" campaign. "Hello, Again" was designed to get people to take a second look at something familiar, and challenge the conventional. Find out more here: http://vimeo.com/59848284

Microsdoft HoloLens - Change the way you see the world

Resh Sidhu

For the first time ever, Microsoft HoloLens seamlessly blends high-definition holograms with your real world. Holograms will improve the way you do things every day, and enable you to do things you've never done before. 

In the  concept video above it demonstrates how you might chat with a colleague using a portable Skype window, or build a Minecraft layout that fitted around your living room, that's were the potential gets exciting.

We envisioned a world where technology could become more personal—where it could adapt to the natural ways we communicate, learn, and create. Where our digital lives would seamlessly connect with real life.

The result is the world’s most advanced holographic computing platform, enabled by Windows 10. For the first time ever, Microsoft HoloLens brings high-definition holograms to life in your world, where they integrate with your physical places, spaces, and things.

Holograms will improve the way you do things every day, and enable you to do things you’ve never done before.
— Microsoft

The head-mounted computer is equipped with its own sensors and processors - so you don't need any other equipment dotted around, which makes the experience smooth. Using the headset's translucent lenses you are able to view graphics overlaid on your environment.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 09.35.37.png

Microsoft also demoed a simple AR app where the user is able to manipulate and build a complex 3D model in real-time. The technology is still a work in progress, so don't get too excited but the potential as with Virtual Reality is big and Microsoft have clearly demonstrated it's a huge part of their plans for the future.

The Wired were given an exclusive Hands-On With Microsoft’s Holographic Goggles back in October - the review makes for a compelling read, Jessi Hempel states,

Kipman’s prototype is amazing. It amplifies the special powers that Kinect introduced, using a small fraction of the energy. The depth camera has a field of vision that spans 120 by 120 degrees—far more than the original Kinect—so it can sense what your hands are doing even when they are nearly outstretched. Sensors flood the device with terabytes of data every second, all managed with an onboard CPU, GPU and first-of-its-kind HPU (holographic processing unit). Yet, Kipman points out, the computer doesn’t grow hot on your head, because the warm air is vented out through the sides. On the right side, buttons allow you to adjust the volume and to control the contrast of the hologram.
— Jessi Hempel