Virtual reality (VR) video is quickly becoming a serious proposition. Earlier this month Samsung revealed its own 360 degree camera in Project Beyond, which is compatible with the Gear VR smartphone-based head-mounted display (HMD). Elsewhere, Jaunt continues to make headlines with its cinematic VR technology and the industry has even seen the launch of the first VR films in Zero Point and 11:57. There’s little doubt that VR video is going to be a significant industry and Bubl Technology wants to be on top.
Last year the company ran an immensely successful Kickstarter campaign for its Bublcam, a baseball-sized 360 orb-like camera featuring four sensors for handheld recording. It’s arguably a much more personal camera that what’s been seen from other companies and features support for Oculus Rift HMD viewing as well as Leap Motion hand-tracking support for navigation. VRFocus recently spoke to Bubl Technology CEO Sean Ramsay about the device, its launch and the future of the VR video industry.
VRFocus: The Bublcam was successfully funded last year. What progress has the company made since then?
Sean Ramsay: Bubl has made tremendous progress in hardware and software development. We have spent the last year increasing our overall knowledge base in spherical and 360º imaging processes in order to deliver the best possible products. It has only been through QA, pilot projects and feedback from consumers at conferences that we have been able to develop processes that have vastly improved the quality of our technology offerings.
VRFocus: Why do you think the Kickstarter campaign was so successful in the first place?
Sean Ramsay: I believe there has been interest in this type of technology for quite some time. The idea that it could be commercialized and offered to everyone was definitely attractive to consumers and businesses. Also the innovation in which a camera could offer a capture experience with zero blind spots aided in creating great interest in our product.
VRFocus: It’s been a big month for VR films with the release of Banshee Chapter and Zero Point as well as the reveal of Hell Mountain. Is the industry accelerating faster than you had anticipated?
Sean Ramsay: This is something we are extremely excited about. This industry is advancing at a pace that is governed by the access of technology that enables capture possible. Our current camera is great, and we are building it to produce at broadcast quality, which is in the works for 2015.
VRFocus: What about competition within the 360 degree camera space? Where do you think bubl stands with the likes of Jaunt VR?
Sean Ramsay: I believe we are in very good company when it comes to the others in the space. Giroptic is most likely our closest true competitor although, from our understanding, their hardware and software development is not fully proprietary to their organization. We create and/or control all aspects of our technology development. Jaunt VR however does provide a higher quality resolution than others in the field at the moment, but from what we can see their current capture devise is comprised of GoPro cameras. They seem to be more competitive to GoPro rigs like Freedom360 and 360Hero and although we feel GoPro is a fantastic camera, Jaunt VR has developed a great workflow for 360º content development over actual technology development which our market still needs.
VRFocus: You’ve suggested that the Bublcam could be used to enhance ‘mystery and detective gaming’. Could you explain what you mean by this?
Sean Ramsay: There is now the possibly of creating experiences where a user can experience live action moments like in a natural movie (or like in game cut scenes) that are combined with moments of spherical content for discovery. Previously described as Full Motion Video gaming where titles like Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace combined live action video with elements of interactive gameplay. Today Bubl aims to advance this format by creating experiences where a user must investigate or explore a scene or a moment in time and make discoveries in order to continue the storyline. This type of game play could potentially lead to new experiences in VR gaming not previously possible.
VRFocus: Are there any VR projects that bubl is currently being used with?
Sean Ramsay: Cannot disclose at this time.
VRFocus: What kind of future do you envision for VR movies? Will they replace the cinema or cater to different audiences?
Sean Ramsay: Nothing will fully replace the cinema. Single directional video is not going away and we don’t want it to. There is an art form when it comes to creating a cinematic experience and now, with the evolution of VR, we can create new form of cinematic art targeted to a VR based media consumption platform.
VRFocus: When do you anticipate bublcam being readily available for consumers to purchase?
Sean Ramsay: We plan to make 2015 the year for full consumer availability.
VRFocus: Do you see a time when consumers are using cameras such as yours as regularly as smartphones and other devices?
Sean Ramsay: Yes. People will have to make a choice. There will be moments when recreating a single aspect of a moment will call for spherical capture. Weddings, travels, holiday moments or simply showcasing the world around us. As our understanding of the technology grows, so will the need to share those moments that only spherical or 360º content capture will provide.