The development of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) will be cranked up this year as entertainment companies integrate an element of both technologies in productions.
Facebook’s Oculus VR, currently the tech’s most talked about developer, is scheduled to start selling its Oculus Rift headset en masse this year.
Last year, to demonstrate what is possible, Oculus VR started producing experimental movies at its Oculus Story Studio subsidiary for VR viewing via the Rift headset (see TechMutiny Issue No.9).
This year, the Rift faces serious competitors like Microsoft’s HoloLens, Sony’s PlayStation VR, HTC Vive and Gear VR from Samsung Electronics.
In response, creators in the businesses of film, music, TV, games and out-of-home entertainment like theme parks (Alton Towers' Galactica, below) are producing related content.
Entertainment creators offering VR
*American NBA basketball legend LeBron James, arguably the world’s most valuable athlete following a recent US$500m partnership with Nike, has released Striving for Greatness, his first original live action film for VR viewing. It was co-created with Canada’s Felix & Paul Studios to view via the Oculus Rift and Gear VR. It is part of James’ ambitions to become a media and entertainment entrepreneur with his company SpringHill Entertainment.
*UK investment firm Armstrong Ventures recently disclosed its £212,500 (US$303,300) investment in MelodyVR, a British content development firm specializing in live music experiences in VR formats. It is platform agnostic, targeting users of devices that include the Rift, Google’s Cardboard and Vive from HTC. Scheduled to launch this year, MelodyVR is said to have clinched deals with several concert and music festival promoters whose shows will be VR-viewable via MelodyVR’s new app.
*UK-based international theme parks operator Merlin Entertainments is unveiling the world’s first VR rollercoaster at its UK-based Alton Towers Resort this April. Called Galactica, the coaster’s passengers will be wearing dedicated headsets that catapult them into outer space where they reenact astronauts’ space travel. And every twist and turn of the ride, including the 20-meter drops, is synchronized with every move they make in the virtual world.
Augmented Reality looks large
AR is another viewing experience that tech developers are hoping will change the way people communicate or are entertained. While VR places the viewer in the middle of the action, AR changes the viewer’s physical surroundings by superimposing hyper-realistic virtual images on them.
The biggest player in the AR arena is Magic Leap, a Florida-based company. Its on-screen promotions feature hyper-real images of a tiny elephant residing in a pair of cupped hands or a gargantuan whale dropping from nowhere into an arena packed with young spectators (pictured below).
And at the TechCrunch Disrupt event in London last December, UK-based start-up Blippar demonstrated its new next-generation AR app.
To continue reading this article on Virtual and Augmented Reality tech’s impact on the entertainment industries, download TechMutiny Issue No.12