Virtual Reality is Happening Now
Virtual reality —is no longer the stuff of science fiction even though it’s still in its beginning. But there’s already a huge rush around the market, which plunges viewers into a simulated 3-D environment and lets them explore different worlds as if they were actually there.
Technology and entertainment giants are investing billions that virtual reality is much more than a trend, one that will change the way we experience movies, news, sporting events, video games and everything else.
Meanwhile, producers, directors and other creators are grappling with an entirely new media and dealing with some formidable challenges — claustrophobic headsets that can make people motion sick.
The competition to transform this space begins in earnest these next few quarters, with the introduction of newfangled, affordably priced headsets from Samsung, Sony, HTC and Facebook (which paid $2 billion last year for a virtual reality startup called Oculus VR). And Disney, Comcast, Time Warner and Legendary Entertainment are just a few of the entertainment companies laying down millions of dollars in a mad hurry to create content for these VR inventions. By 2025, the market is going to be worth over $5.4 billion, according to the Piper Jaffray investment bank worldwide. The hardware piece of the market alone is going to be worth $62 billion.
Ted Schilowitz, the in-house futurist at 20th Century Fox, said, “We’re at the brick-size cellphone days of VR. The technology works. It’s remarkable. But it is nowhere near good enough, on any front, to take on mass, mass adoption.”
Yet, he commented, “every few months, we’re reaching closer to the target.”
Without compelling games and experiences, even the most impressive piece of technology won’t appeal to more than an elite band of early users. One of the more high-profile tests at filling that need is taking place over at Mr. Schilowitz’s studio, where the director Robert Stromberg (“Maleficent”), Ridley Scott and the Fox Innovation Lab are completing the final touches on a virtual reality companion to “The Martian” Mr. Scott’s hit film. In the 15-to-20-minute film, to be released early next year, watchers will become introduced to the stranded astronaut (played by Matt Damon in the feature film) as they navigate Mars and complete tasks to stay alive. The users will even get to experience zero gravity in space and drive the rover on Mars, these are amazing experiences.
Better Than Backstage
For the director, Mark Romanek (“One Hour Photo,” “Never Let Me Go”), virtual reality has long been an obsession. About 25 years ago, he tried on a VR rig at a convention sponsored by the early cyberculture magazine Mondo 2000 and was not happy with how bulky the technology was at the time.
So in 1991, when he was directing the music production, “Love Conquers All” for the British pop band ABC, he created his own invention.
“I just sort of wished it into reality, even though the technology wasn’t there yet,” he commented.
Last year technology caught up, when he was in the creation of an actual VR project with none other than Paul McCartney.
While he was speaking to Mr. McCartney about working together on a short music film, the conversation shifted to virtual reality. The former Beatle had never seen any footage, so Mr. Romanek asked the people at Jaunt VR, where Mr. Romanek is on the board of advisers, to show the Beatle a demonstration of the technology.