Virtual Reality Will Change the World, Brian May Opines
Dr. Brian May, while addressing a small cinema room full of tech and music journalists about a new product involving his rock band Queen and virtual reality, says, “The whole VR phenomenon is taking us back full circle to what Victorian stereoscopy was. You had a box, and you looked in it. It was a very intimate experience.”
Brian May: With VR, You Can Create the Reality You Want
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This may sound strange, tracing modern-day VR products like Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard back to the work of Sir Charles Wheatstone, who happened to be the first person to understand binocular vision, leading him to invent the stereoscope.
“Charles Wheatstone figured out that if you can capture the image each eye sees and then present them separately, you would get stereopsis: a kind of virtual reality,” says May.
“He called it stereoscopy, they called it 3-D in the 1950s for films, and we call it virtual reality now. Fundamentally, it’s all pretty much the same thing” continues May.
May’s interest in stereoscopy is beyond mere admiration. In his youth, he goes about junk-shops looking for discarded stereoscopes.
Following his passion, his London Stereoscopic Company has been making its own model since 2008, including the OWL Stereo Viewer, which stereoscopy enthusiasts can use to look at reproductions of Victorian stereoscope cards, as well as new cards of Queen and astronomy images.
“Virtual reality has already taken the technology world by storm, and most of the virtual reality devices you’ll find will be things that surround your eyes, like the Google Cardboard thing, like the Oculus Rift. That’s how people thought this particular reproduction of virtual reality should be experienced,” says May. “But people get fatigued quickly from these things, and they get annoyed because they can’t reach in to get to their phone controls. I quickly realized this [the OWL] was in some ways a better way of viewing virtual reality.”
May’s new OWL device has been used with Google Cardboard apps, even though it’s not an official Google Cardboard headset. It fits because the content May uses to demonstrate it is a new animated version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” created by Google without the participation of the band.
Brian May shares, “If you look in certain directions there’s not a lot going on, and the backgrounds are very flat. They did it very quickly, and without input from anybody else. That’s the way they work, I guess. I would have loved to collaborate with them, and am hoping to collaborate with them in the future.”
Thus, May consequently has already started working on official Queen content, and the band’s recent concert with Adam Lambert in Barcelona was filmed using VR cameras zipping above the audience on wires for future distribution.
“It will be as if you’re in a space rocket and zooming around the arena, and seeing everything in 3-D,” the musician says.
Brian May, being an enthusiast himself, talks animatedly about an as-yet-unreleased NASA VR project, saying, “Ultimately virtual reality will change the world, because you’ll be able to build exactly the reality you want. I think people eventually won’t want to come out. It’s a very real possibility: there’s a great science-fiction story that I read years ago with that premise.”