…kind of the VR State of the Union, as of March 30, 2016 (part 1 of 2)

This post is a light-hearted overview of the state of VR at the end of winter, 2016. My viewpoint is that of an artist, a filmmaker and a writer of books and screenplays. At the bottom of this post is information about my VR activities. BIGGEST RECENT VR EVENT Wow. I had thought that the New York Times giveaway of over a million Google Cardboards would have been the talk of the digital world. The NY Times commissioned a major VR project called The Displaced. I wrote about it here. Maybe because I am in Southeast Asia, but I did not hear the sounds of the NYT/CardboardVR revolution. However... on Facebook, the NYT post about  The Displaced has 48K views. The following view counts are for comparison, chosen for no particular reason. Cartoon Network Facebook post about  cupcakes featuring Steven Universe emojis. 9.7K views Facebook post by Nick Robinson, featuring a photo of 4 former BBC newsmen, all of who have survived a major health threat. 216K A New York Yankees Facebook post/advertisement about opening day. The video is 11 seconds long, one scene:  ketchup being pumped onto a box holding a hotdog and French fries. 265K views Links related to the NYT Giveaway: A Virtual Reality Revolution, Coming to a Headset Near You, by Lorne Manly for the New York Times, November 19, 2015 Stop Calling Google Cardboard’s 360-Degree Videos ‘VR’ by Will Smith for Wired, November 16, 2015 http://www.techrepublic.com/article/immersive-journalism-what-virtual-reality-means-for-the-future-of-storytelling-and-empathy-casting/ So...THE event of the Year in VR would have to be the release of the Oculus Rift. Yes, it is far from perfect, but it is a new way of communicating. The ability to move your head and see in all directions is amazing; you will always remember your first VR experience. However, this Wikipedia post describes other Rift features and ideas that are equally exciting. From the Wikipedia post....

Oculus is including Oculus Cinema as a free application, which allows the Rift to be used to view conventional movies and videos from inside a virtual cinema environment, giving the user the perception of viewing the content on a cinema sized screen.[70] Oculus Cinema will also have a networked mode, in which multiple users can watch the same video in the same virtual space, seeing each other as avatars and being able to interact and talk to one another while watching the video.[71]

The Rift also offers the opportunity to view new types of media that are impossible to view on regular monitors; 360° 3D videos and 'virtual reality movies' (an entirely new medium).

Wow! And, as can be expected for a company owned by Facebook, there is a heck of a lot of groundwork being laid for social media activities that are now just a twinkle in Zuckerberg's eye. I have not mentioned this, because it is so obvious, but gamers are the primary audience for the Rift. Though I greatly appreciate the theories and possibilities of gamemaking, I am not yet a gamer, so I can't comment on that side of things. The Wall Street Journal article entitled Oculus Rift Review: VR's Rising Star Isn't Ready for the Mainstream, by Geoffrey A Fowler, is a review that may seem to be negative. Fowler's first experience with the VR had technical problems. He points out that the Rift needs a cord that has to be plugged into an expensive "superPC ", one that uses so much power that it has two power plugs. Comfort. From Fowler's article: After the novelty wears off, using the 1.5-pound headset is about as awkward as sleeping on an airplane. It’s hard to avoid feeling queasy when virtual scenes move without your actual body.   Fowler's comments indicate that he did not experience presence, the sensation of actually being in another dimension. There are challenges with the Rift, but one must consider how fast it has developed in such a short time.The first generation of VR headsets are now among the masses. The VR dawn is breaking. BEST VR GAME No idea. Suggestions welcomed. I read this review about ADR1FT and immediately fell in love with THE IDEA of ADR1FT, despite the title of the review: In Space No One Can Hear You Yawn. Imagine that ADR1FT were remixed, so that we were floating in space and HEARING STORIES. A new genre would be born: a VR audio book. (Joe Durbin, the reviewer, also gave us a nice bit of literary info, this comment on ADR1FT's structure: ADR1FT borrows from the BioShock handbook when it comes to story. You begin in the middle of the action and have to piece together a plot from the scattered personal communications of your fellow astronauts. So, in terms of visual beauty and as an indicator of VR's potential, I would pick ADR1FT. (And yeah, I would love to work on a ADR1FT remix, converting  that beautiful cosmic lullaby into a heartpounding tearjerker or something like that.) Would really appreciate suggestions as to what is the best VR gaming experience out there. And would like to know what makes it great. Lucky's Tale? In part two, I will write about VR Music Videos,VR VIPS and VR storytelling.... Onward (Virtual stylee...)   SB About me and my VR experiences: I once worked as a creative director for a company that was creating 3D game development kits and later I taught lessons in 3D gamemaking. I am now compiling notes and posts for a book on the how cinematography has been redefined because of computer integration at the time of exposure/production. So far I have worked on three different 360 VR projects: Beach Road, featured at the Brisbane Film Festival and nominated for Best Experimental Film at the 2016 VR Fest in Las Vegas. 360 VR Lee Wen’s Ping Pong Go Round Another shoot, also involving Lee Wen’s Ping Pong Go Round was experimental and the stitching became a wonderful learning experience, but one not suitable for sharing with the public. And, for what it is worth, I curated SPOKEN, an exciting project that takes place in Eugene Soh's virtual gallery.ww.gallery.sg This has barely mentioned technical issues. I greatly respect the technical side of film-making and am fully aware that one cannot be truly creative unless the technical aspects have been considered. Another reason I avoided technical issues is that they are constantly changing and improving. My latest novel, Bali Wave Ghost, features a bit of VR, especially SeeThings, a brand of fictitious VR headsets.  For the Indie3D online magazine, I once wrote about the technical and production side of Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, directed by Tsui Hark and starring Jet Li. The ”role model” for my work-in-progress is Towards A New Architecture by Le Corbusier. Corbusier wrote that at a time when architecture was being redefined by technology; specifically, concrete and steel girders. Cinematography is now being redefined;  lenses are now inseparable from computer technology. Light and data are captured simultaneously. In short, this post was meant to document some of  my thoughts about the current state of VR and my reactions to them. Finally, I should mention that I am writing from Bali/Singapore and do not track the daily events of the VR world.        

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