Why You Shouldn’t Ask Me How Long I’ve Been Into VR
I’m often asked how long I’ve been doing things for VR (Virtual Reality). The question is honestly one of the most difficult to answer accurately. The difficulty stems directly from how you define VR. Because of that difficulty, I’m dedicating this whole piece to that one question and why it’s so difficult to answer (let alone, understand). So, what is VR and why you shouldn’t ask how long I’ve been at it:
On the surface, it seems like a trivial and dismissable question. I could just say, “Look in a dictionary!” and sure, you’d find an answer there. Will it be right? Yeah, to an extent, maybe. By the way, read Merriam Webster’s official definition.
Let’s say I’ve planned a hot-date for next Saturday. You could ask, “What will you wear?” I can then dismissively say, “Look in my closet.” Will you find an answer there? Sure but will it be right? Maybe.
To some, VR isn’t VR unless you’ve got a thing strapped to your head that tricks your auditory and visual senses (our most important primary senses). To others, it can be that but not only that. It can be a lot of things so long as it virtualizes your reality.
No matter how you play with the words, one thing is always true of good, solid VR and that’s the experience. Great graphics or amazing 3D assets amount to nothing unless there’s context, unless there’s a story.
VR has the potential to show you things in an experiential way. To explain that statement, I’ll point out a simple fact that we’ve already become accustomed to: In VR you often don’t observe your character from a third-person view and you often don’t have a pre-assigned name. You are you. You aren’t playing it, you’re experiencing it. Yes, there are games to be played in VR but most of what you find on Steam or the Oculus Store are best classified as “experiences.
If you put a person into something that is best classified as a game, they’ll be done with it pretty quickly. If you put that same person into something experiential, like theBlu, you’ll see them put their arms out to steady themselves even though the floor isn’t moving. Then, when they see the whale, some will stop moving and start giggling (a very real, nervous reaction) as the largest animal to ever exist on the planet approaches them. Or, they’ll walk-up to the whale and try to touch it when it was obvious to them just a few minutes before that the space they’re in is completely empty.
With something like that, that’s experiential, VR will change them on a fundamental level.
My brother’s first experience in VR was with Google’s Spotlight Stories. I loaded the story called ‘duet’ onto a mobile device and handed it over to him with a pair of headphones.
After I could see that he knew what to do, I shut the lights off and left the room.
I can go into what happened in his brain and why I did what I did but I think it’s best to tell what happened when I came back after enough time had passed for him to experience ‘duet’ one time. I expected him to be standing there fiddling with the device or just waiting for me.
What I found was completely different. He was going through it again. This time following the other perspective.
The most striking thing is that this is my brother. He’s 6 foot tall and built like a rock, a full-on traditional man. He didn’t notice me come back. His eyes were wide and I could see tears running down his cheeks.
All it took were headphones and a 5-inch display to change him. He talks about the experience with respect that borders on religious.
Nobody is on VeeR to play a game (yet), we’re all here to experience things and to share what others normally wouldn’t be able to experience. The HTC Vive and headsets like it are far too expensive for most. They’re luxury items attached to luxury items. Mobile devices (or phones depending on where you live) are FAR more accessible and can have the same impact as those headsets.
I’ve been at this a while and I’ve had my share of stumbles. If I were to offer advice to people wanting to get into the 360º video and/or photography and to get people interested in your work, I’d say to find something interesting and just do it. You often have a worldwide audience and most times people are unable to go where you are but they still want to experience where you are. Find a place that a person from another part of the world can’t see day to day and show it to them.
Also, remember that it’s up to the content creators to not just show something cool but to make it interesting, understandable, and relatable.
Look at what’s uploaded to VeeR, find the ones that are successful (you get to choose what “successful” is) and you’ll find that they all have interesting descriptions, they have thumbnails that can be easily understood and representing what the video/photo is about. Be sure that what you upload is easily understood as being what it is. Be sure a person will know what they’ll experience when they click on it.
And you’ll know what you need to do to be like them.
Scott, from the center of the universe