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Future Broadcasting: Virtual Reality or Virtual Insanity?

Let’s face it, we’re all hungry to discover the next big thing in our industry arenas, although any shift in the way things are done inevitably brings about a degree of uncertainly and reluctance to change from those who are comfortable in their way of working.

Nevertheless, our perceptions of the world are continually changing due, in no small part, to the images we are bombarded with daily from screens of all shapes and sizes. Along with that change in perception comes a need to fine-tune our content even more and to discover new ways of tapping into society’s mindset. With this in mind, this month I want to explore a growing trend in broadcasting technology that I feel may make a significant mark upon the industry over the next twelve months.

Harrison Ford Not Required

Forget Blade Runner (although it is on my Netflix watch list for this weekend) – virtual reality in broadcasting technology is far from a film noir, although it can have a gritty rawness and an ability to pull an audience into a situation or event in moments. Take a look at the 360-degree footage of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests, designed for the Oculus Rift (hongkongunrest.com) and you’ll see what I mean.

The idea of having a digital experience that completely surrounds your vision is a compelling one, although some would say that we are currently at the stage that cinema was when it was first released – still wet behind the ears to some extent and all too often trying to run before we can walk.

The Headset Dilemma

It’s all a bit too Google glass-like for me right now in terms of VR headset design, but I do see the clouds lifting and a few rays of sunlight peeking through in terms of the future. The ever-hyped Oculus Rift has some jaw dropping capabilities, but looks like something out of the prop room from an amateur dramatic performance of Terminator!

It’s time to think thin and get streamlined guys! But, of course, the way we view future content is only one part of the story.

It’s All About the Money

Making use of current broadcast filming equipment to keep costs to a minimum whilst embracing a shift in viewing immersion is a topic of huge debate right now. Companies like Immersiv.ly are experimenting with green screen 360-degree backdrops to make 2D filming more interactive.

Others like LiveLike are choosing to focus on creating a 3D game-like environment, using a single camera view to project more of a social space that can be inhabited with friends – also known as Social VR.

Step into the Future of Skype

The future of Skype could well involve us literally stepping into a conversation with friends, with avatars creating a sense of personal space within a digital broadcast environment. Sounds far-fetched and call me a crazy dreamer, but clunky headsets aside, I see this as a pivotal move forward in the way that we interact and socialise online.

Maybe I need to be medicated for your safety, but I predict that, once we fully understand how to utilise VR technologies, we’ll embrace the creation of new genres of broadcasting that truly immerse and channel our emotions. After all, what may seem like virtual insanity right now might just prove to be the sanest way forward for interactive broadcasting.

Until next time…

We’re already into the second month of the New Year and my Dry January resolution has failed miserably. However, I settle myself in the knowledge that there are several hundred shopping days remaining until Christmas and celebrate that fact by opening another bottle. Dry January be damned – there’s always next year!

So, this is where a glass-raising (cheers) Dr G signs off.

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