Here is the take-away of this post: if you plan on sharing a phone display VR project with people in the same physical space, make sure you have the appropriate number of viewers and phones that have been tested and have enough battery power.(Update: "VR" is not the most accurate phrase; the movie in question is 360...)
That's pretty simple, right? Any professional would agree with that. However, the situation described can exist only with economic support. How many of us can afford to have ten, maybe more, mobile phones loaded and viewers? The rest of this post describes my experiences in a "no budget" VR sharing situation and includes observations that will interest anyone doing VR screening events without a big budget; people like artists, galleries, independent filmmakers and nonprofit organisations.
Background: Once Beach Road was live on Google Play, the opportunity to do an exhibition presented itself. Although there was no budget and no gear, I decided to do it. I thought that I could borrow/get cardboard viewers from hiverlab and would be able to find a few Android phones with a 4.1 OS. Also, I suggested, via Facebook and other means, that if anyone could download Beach Road before coming that it would be great, helping us to show more people with less waiting.
Results: We got by by the skin of our teeth. The night of the opening, about 100 people came and probably 70 people saw Beach Road. Eugene Soh, The Dude, was one of those who had successfully downloaded and he kindly shared his phone. Ender (CEO of hiverlab) guided many people through their first VR experience. Due to lack of phones and battery power, not everyone saw Beach Road. Hopefully they enjoyed the kuehs, the beer, the prints on display and the music of Amith Narayan and Justin Bannister (kind of a 3how thing) and, at times, Lee Wen.
Side note: Jean Marks Norihiko Nagai, CEO of Start 360 flew in from Japan to see Norm Black. He brought with him an Oculus and a collection of 360 Japanese projects he had curated. Fantastic, though I have to say the Oculus he brought with him reminded me of TV displays from the last century! The little dots! Aargh! Luckily he was able to see Beach Road on a Sony Xperia. 4K 360 video, beautifully displayed. Yes! Based on Jean Marks's experiences, it is presently quite troublesome to watch Google Play 360 videos in Japan. After much testing, the most reliable phones seem to be Sony's Xperia Z1f and Z Ultra. (From an email from Jean Marks: I think devices using CPU SnapDragon800 or later can play the movie.)
Related to Jean Mark's notes about the difficulty of finding a device to play Beach Road properly, I should add that, in general VR is still very unknown in Singapore. FWIW, the government of Singapore does its best to keep the IT infrastructure solid and the country has one of the highest GDPs in Asia. At the time of this writing (September 2015) most people that I met had very little knowledge or experience with 360 VR. Plus, it was no simple matter to find a phone that could play, let alone headsets. I am very positive about the future of 360VR, but, more than ever, I am skeptical about 2016 being a boom year for VR. In this country at least, there must be a huge number of phones to be bought and desirable content produced.
Note 1: Although I am experienced in gamemaking, this post reflects my interest in VR storytelling. And, yes, I know that they are not automatically mutually exclusive.
Note 2. Perhaps if the Beach Road app were on iTunes, things would have been easier. However, at least twice, Beach Road has not been allowed into iTunes, with no reason given. At present, Google Play says that "four people" have reviewed Beach Road, though only three are displayed; all reviews have given Beach Road five stars.
Note 3. In the future, rentable, inexpensive phones may make public displays easier. Here is a video I just discovered, one by J. David Sundstrom