I’ve been sitting thinking back through the virtual reality (VR) experiences and games I’ve tried over the past months that have been filled with incredible releases. It’s hard, isn’t it? Pick a moment in time where VR really captured your imagination and attention. And that was it – the one piece during this year’s E3 that absolutely took me – and surprisingly so. I went into Starbreeze AB’s assigned room and the first thing they do is hand me their StarVR head-mounted display (HMD) and tell me I’m going to watch a piece where I can listen in to several different storylines that come into one. “Eh,” I thought. “Let’s see what this is all about.”
This is the thing with 360 videos in VR: you feel obliged to turn your head, not compelled. Oh, the many times I have stood around and watched what felt like entry-level 360 videos where it was overly obvious where to look, and it led you all the time. I mean, leading the viewer to look at the important stuff isn’t bad, but I sometimes feel like a toddler being held by the hand, and I have to react just so or else I am looking at nothing. And this is exactly what I was expecting.
It’s worth mentioning that this showed at the Cannes Film Festival this year and did very well. It started off interesting enough – the film was all black and white, and I so hoped it wasn’t going to be this slow all the way through. I perservered, and I’m so glad I did – and not just because it would be a little rude to give up after 30 seconds.
Colour filled the images, and people surrounded me. Well, not just people, but quirky characters who all had something interesting to do or say. The use of spatial audio that was demonstrated was incredible because it had a purpose. Not just to immerse me into the strange party scene, but to let me listen in to the different events going on around me.
The momentum kept building, and I couldn’t help but try and get the most out of each story line. Perhaps it is just my sense of humour that made me think this was the most life-filled 360 experience, but the absurd nature of what was happening fed this hunger of mine for VR content with real character. My smile was big, and I was reacting verbally – embarrassing as that may have been (more for others around me).
This is it! I am being compelled to look around and switch between stories, finally! And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, oh boy was I in for a surprise. But the thing is – I totally missed half of what it was all leading up to and whipped my head round. The climactic point of the whole story made me literally laugh out loud. Shamelessly so. Only because I was competely and utterly at the mercy of Cockatoo Spritz – for that moment at least,
This was the turning point for me to think that 360 video can and will develop into something of real substance. It wasn’t just a gimmick to boast of using new technology, but there was thought put into the composition and use of 360 and VR. This sparked the kid-like excitement I haven’t felt for 360 video before, and that’s why this is a real VR moment for me.