Wearable Tech World Feature Article
October 14, 2014

Virtual Reality Goes to the Movies with New Oculus Tools

Back when Facebook first made its moves to buy Oculus VR, the company behind the Oculus Rift, there was no shortage of outcry from gamers who thought the new push toward virtual reality (VR) was now sunk thanks to Zuckerberg and crew. But word began to emerge that Zuckerberg was taking the long view of VR, thinking of it as much more than just a gaming tool. Now, we're beginning to see the results of that philosophy, as Oculus Cinema is starting to emerge and make quite the splash in terms of just what virtual reality can do.

The use of VR as a gaming tool is well known. A few minutes on YouTube will offer up a host of Let's Play videos involving the Oculus Rift in a variety of games from horror to action to things that defy easy genre classification. But its use in other fields, like cinema releases, hasn't been quite so well explored, a development that's rapidly gaining ground. With Oculus Cinema, users get the option to pick from a variety of backdrops—ranging from a standard home theater background, much like some already have in house, to a complete IMAX screen and even, in perhaps the most whimsical of choices, a movie theater on the moon that comes with a view of the Apollo lander. The app then deposits the viewer to the rear of the theater, center screen—that rare seat that's tough to come by for most any filmgoer—and begins playing on the screen, which from the users' perspective is absolutely huge, just as a movie screen should be. The film then begins playing on that screen.

There were two major concerns in terms of getting movies to the Oculus Rift; one was a matter of comfort. One of the biggest reasons that 3D never really got all that far was a matter of the glasses involved, cumbersome, uncomfortable glasses that were often expensive as well. The Oculus Rift is working on both of those points, working to be more comfortable—particularly for those who wear glasses, as 3D glasses very seldom worked well with prescription lenses—and comparatively inexpensive, able to be used hundreds of times.

The other concern is perhaps the biggest wild card of all: content. While indeed, there's no shortage of “found footage” style filmmaking that would accommodate an Oculus Rift fairly well, it's still not a true virtual reality experience. Users wouldn't be able to look in any other direction but what the camera showed, not without having that footage on hand. But even this is starting to change, at least somewhat, with the advent of things like the Jaunt camera system, which allows for a much wider filming system, and much more overall to be shot and thus viewed by the user.

Oculus in film is going to require some significant changes to the way things are done, and that's going to be tough to justify without some big sales for Oculus devices. Thankfully, the gaming side of things is likely to fuel that initial boost, which should give content providers the necessary business case to start making content geared toward VR. Only time will tell if that proves to be the case, though, but soon, we may well be watching movies, playing games, and living a good chunk of life via the Oculus Rift and our home PC.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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