Virtual reality promises to transform film

February 20, 2016 by Glenn Chapman
TED attendees pass a nature-themed socializing spot outside the conference theater, at the Vancouver convention cente, on Februa
TED attendees pass a nature-themed socializing spot outside the conference theater, at the Vancouver convention cente, on February 16, 2016

Chris Milk stepped onto a TED Conference stage and took the audience on an awe-inducing trip into the future of movies.

While much of the early attention on virtual reality has focused on use of the immersive technology in video games, Milk and his US startup Vrse are using it to transform storytelling and filmgoing.

"We have just started to scratch the surface of the true power of virtual reality," Milk said.

"It's not a peripheral. It connects humans to other humans in a profound way... I think virtual reality has the potential to actually change the world."

He had everyone in the Vancouver audience at TED, which ended Friday, hold Google Cardboard viewers to their eyes for what was billed as the world's collective virtual reality experience.

Google Cardboard gear is literally that—cardboard with a slot for holding smartphones at act as screens for viewing. Ear buds plug into smartphones to tune into soundtracks.

Audience members gasped collectively at times as they found themselves virtually transported in front of an oncoming locomotive, the sky above a city, a stage with a rock band and elsewhere.

"It is the first medium that actually makes the jump from the author's expression of an experience to our experiencing it first hand," Milk said.

Founder and CEO of Vrse, Chris Milk, speaks during a keynote at CES, at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Nevada, on January 7, 2016

Vrse has made more tha a dozen virtual reality films in the past year and Milk said peers in the industry are tremendously interested in the technology.

An empathy machine

"It is amazing that you can just take a cardboard box and add it to someone's smartphone and have an experience like that together," Milk said after his TED talk.

TED attendees watch live streams of talks at the prestigious conference, from social areas outside the main theater, in Vancouve
TED attendees watch live streams of talks at the prestigious conference, from social areas outside the main theater, in Vancouver, on February 16, 2016

"Virtual reality is not just a social experience, but a collective experience."

Milk sees virtual reality as bringing people together instead of isolating them in fantasy worlds disconnected from what is going on around them.

"I can connect you not just with someone across the aisle from you, I can connect you to someone across the world," Milk said.

An attendee inspects Google Cardboard during the 2015 Google I/O conference in San Francisco, California
An attendee inspects Google Cardboard during the 2015 Google I/O conference in San Francisco, California

He referred to virtual realty as "an empathy machine" capable of making people better relate to the lives of others by sharing places and experiences in such a manner that comes powerfully close to walking alongside them.

"It is incredibly exciting for all the obvious reasons and incredibly intimidating," Milk said of the challenge of content creators to live up to the hype and high-expectations for .

"We are still at the train coming into the station, and everyone is expecting 'Citizen Kane.' I just hope that we can live up to everyone's expectations."

He pictured a future in which people do not go to theaters and watch films the way they do today. Countless numbers of people using VR headgear could watch a film "together" while being nowhere near one another.

"The movie theater was created because you needed it to project something on a wall and have 100 people pay to watch it," Milk said.

"It is an antiquated structure for this new medium. There is no limit to the scale of what you could create if you want to connect people together."

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23 comments

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antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (6) Feb 20, 2016
Ok, I see uses for VR aplenty, but "transforming film"? More immersion isn't what the viewer wants/needs. 3D movie theaters are all but on the way out and 3D TVs are deader than dead.

The thing technophiles (and i am one) often forget is this: The REAL movie happens in your head. It stimulates your imagination. And for that a grainy 10 inch black and white screen will do no worse than a near-perfect VR setting.
TheWalrus
not rated yet Feb 21, 2016
Can we get an editor for clean-up on aisle 2?

Seriously. There are more typos here than I care to count.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (4) Feb 21, 2016
And for that a grainy 10 inch black and white screen will do no worse than a near-perfect VR setting
@AA_P
i can understand the appeal that some have to realism in graphics (at least in certain areas)...realistic VR is far more likely to stimulate emotions than a grainy B&W image which is where the appeal comes in from some folk- the visceral reaction

the more realistic the graphics, the more likely the brain is to engage and insert ones-self into the situation (this is one reason realistic VR is being used in PTSD treatment), therefore it is easier to become part of the "story" or action, especially if there is less noise (or less input demonstrating that you are NOT a part of the action and that the images/story is not real)

It would also be better to demonstrate to a jury what really happened... but i am not sure i prefer realism in film over the imagination stimulation of a good book

SkyLy
5 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2016
@antialias I think you're wrong :

First, not everyone possess the same imagination strength. Ever heard of the VVIQ ? Some people desperately need their senses to be used to their maximum if they want to really enjoy a movie, because their imagination is just sub par.

Secondly, 3D/2D have nothing to do with VR. VR can trigger someone's fear of heights, and this, is the proof that it is at the next level. Current VR technology is still a baby, it'll need time to definitely feel real, but once we'll get there, we won't be turning back.

Plus, this technology adds a totally new way to interact with the movie : you rotate your head. Okay, the hero is fighting in front of you, but what is happening behind ? What if you could raise yourself, move a bit on the battlefield, check how a secondary character is doing, revisiting the same movie again and again to get more details ? VR opens many new doors, and i believe we're gonna like it.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2016
VR can trigger someone's fear of heights

I agree. But that is a limited effect. It's like with 3D or surround sound. Sure it's cool the first time you see it - but then you notice that every movie has that one shot of something flying at you or that one scene where the sound comes back to front.

I watched Deadpool yesterday and it had exactly that audio scene in it - which was utterly superfluous to the movie (good movie, though. I had a total blast).

if you want to get a sense of vertigo then just watch Ghost in the Shell. No 3D, no SFX...but man, do they ever give you that scary height sensation in the movie (and the series) at some points.

hero is fighting in front of you

That's the point: In movies the stuff you focus on is in front of you 99.99% of the time. No point in looking around or surround SFX.

3D died (yet again). VR in movies will not live. Other uses (games!)? Sure. Movies? I don' see it.beyond the initial "golly gee" moment.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2016
But that is a limited effect
@AA_P
good point, but why is it limited?
is it a desensitization?

or is it a disconnect because it is known to be false?
case in point: i prefer books to movies for many reasons, one of which is that the realism is just not there
take the blood spatter patterns in the typical horror film: more often than not they go for bulk over realism (shock value)
then they screw up velocity patterns and distribution (it's not like it is hard to recreate!)
and lets not even get started with continuity...

i DO think that it will not be popular for movies but for an entirely different reason that you stated...IMHO i feel COST is going to get in the way. it is already expensive to go to a movie, but the cost of additional interactive VR would drive movie prices up

but lets not count the porn industry out just yet... LMFAO
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2016
OOPS.. one last thing i should add re: VR

this may well take off and be insanely popular in certain areas that are a lot more private, especially if said VR integrates additional stimulus packages (hence the last line of my post above re: porn industry)

i consider the potential costs being prohibitive for "movies" or mass media, especially one that requires a continual update or a live feed of data like news...
but that doesn't necessarily mean it will not be popular in more private interactive moments, fantasy, fetish, voyeur, or other type behaviour that is typically confined to secrecy. What if a foot fetish can enjoy his moments with ANY person (or a self-built "perfect object") in VR?
This may be considered "game technology" in that sense, but it is not, IMHO
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Feb 21, 2016
Oh,boy, . . VR glasses and a vibrator - the 21st Century good date.

I would rather live in reality.
gkam
1 / 5 (5) Feb 21, 2016
Stumpy, you alleged otto's denigrations were accurate. I want you to get the guts to defend that position. We can start with his denigration of War Vets.
Noumenon
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 21, 2016
Oh,boy, . . VR glasses and a vibrator - the 21st Century good date.

I would rather live in reality.


Your "reality" ?

Captain Stumpy
4 / 5 (4) Feb 21, 2016
@g/benji-kam
you alleged otto's denigrations were accurate
no i didn't
i said his attacking you was predominantly on data points that were usually because of your epic failures WRT factual (and provable) representation of data
(IOW- you lied or f*cked up)... you know, like your fear-claims of ThZ??
I want you to get the guts to defend that position
why should i defend your personal delusion?
that is for YOU to defend, benni!
We can start with his denigration of War Vets.
YOU are the one denigrating war vets you idiot

PS- last reply to you about this
especially since i have the evidence on my side (and i've linked it in the other thread- especially your denigration of us ACTUAL war-veterans)

you want to fight otto?
then go fight otto
leave me OUT of your delusional rantings...

BTW- check your meds
apparently your ALZ meds are out of whack
Noumenon
5 / 5 (4) Feb 21, 2016
I tried the cardboard,.... and it's really neat and has massive potential, especially augmented-reality [like hololens if MS can fix the viewport issue]. However, I think it will make most people nauseous unless the screen has very high dpi. I couldn't take it for more than 10 minutes.

Captain Stumpy
4 / 5 (4) Feb 21, 2016
I tried the cardboard
@Nou
where?
did you get to go to the 2015 Google I/O conference in San Francisco??
would like to hear more on your interaction with said cardboard- detailed
However, I think it will make most people nauseous unless the screen has very high dpi. I couldn't take it for more than 10 minutes
imagine what it would be like for someone sensitive to motion?
.... my wife can't even take the graphics of GTA-V on our TV!

given the popularity for VR in certain treatments of irrational fears or mental conditions, i would think there is going to be more need for this, but i still can't see it being popular for movies so much as games or other (as mentioned above)
gkam
1 / 5 (5) Feb 21, 2016
"BTW- check your meds apparently your ALZ meds are out of whack"
-------------------------------
Thanks, otto, that is the kind of response we expect from you.
Estevan57
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2016
"Oh,boy, . . VR glasses and a vibrator - the 21st Century good date."
"Stumpy, you alleged otto's denigrations were accurate. I want you to get the guts to defend that position. We can start with his denigration of War Vets." - gkam

You kinda sound like a dirty old man spoilin' for someone else to fight for himself.
And you can't tell Otto from Stumpy.
Get meds.

Uncle Ira
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2016
And you can't tell Otto from Stumpy.
Get meds.


Ha! a couple of months ago he just knew you were Otto-Skippy,,, hooyeei I had a good laugh over that one.

Oh yeah, I almost forget. Mike-the-Skippy who talks to him self also thought I was Otto-Skippy in the wee hours of the morning this morning.

Why it is that the peoples who are the smartest peoples who ever walked the earth and the most dignified and polite and respectful always end up thinking that they are too smart and too civilized that it just is not possible that more than one person in the whole world could have the disrespect and impertinence to ridicule their brilliance and wonderful good manners?

But I am one of the dumb ones (according to them), if dozens of peoples told me I was a moron, I would probably start think they might be on to something.
Estevan57
4 / 5 (4) Feb 21, 2016
A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.
William Shakespeare

A man's GOT to know his limitations.
Harry Callahan:

Your pick, just don't call me late for supper. wink wink. Have a good day.
Noumenon
5 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2016
I tried the cardboard

@Nou
where?
did you get to go to the 2015 Google I/O conference in San Francisco??
would like to hear more on your interaction with said cardboard- detailed


No, I received a lays potato chip promotion cardboard from my brother. There are many apps. The lays app was a restaurant that you are standing in. You can look around the room and at people sitting and eating and people talking to you as the video is playing. You can look anywhere, at their feet, at the ceiling, etc.

Another one was google street view at the Eiffel Tower,.. you can walk around, look up at the tower.

Another one was at a museum, as you turn the object (a mask or pottery etc) turns, and can rotate it any direction.

The potential is limitless really. Check out hololens. What is needed is very high resolution screens though,... otherwise real nausea.

The cardboard has two lenses in it that focus two areas of you phone screen into your FOV.
Noumenon
5 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2016
.... I considered the cardboard just to be something to show off the potential (which it does quite well),... not a finished product. A dedicated display designed specifically for this is required as limited phone displays are only going to turn people off. Much higher DPI for prime time ,imo.
Eikka
5 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2016
(or less input demonstrating that you are NOT a part of the action and that the images/story is not real)


Why would you necessarily want to be part of the action? What is your role in the story? Isn't part of the appeal of good stories the fact that you become so gripped that you forget you're there?

That's the problem with hollywood films these days: they're constructed like fairground rollercoaster rides to the point that the plot is secondary to the noise and flashing and general assault on the nerves. The other reason being the poor quality of cheap CGI which has to be flashed past so nobody has the time to take a closer look.

Where's the 3D movie where you're viewing actors as if on a stage, from a comfortable vantage point and simply observe what happens? I had to keep one eye closed for the first 10 minutes of Gravity just so I wouldn't throw up.
Eikka
not rated yet Feb 21, 2016
What is needed is very high resolution screens though,... otherwise real nausea.


There are more issues than just resolution. For example, the problem of the fixed focal length and projection errors which make the field of view behave differently from reality. Then there's the lag and accuracy problem between head position sensing and display.

You're trying to project a flat image at a fixed distance onto the back of a curved eyeball which is evolved to focus at different distances and shift and scan across the field of view, which introduces disrepancies in how things appear, and that causes a sort of motion sickness in and of itself - not necessarily while you're wearing the VR glasses either, but when you take them off.

Anyone who has strong correction in eyeglasses knows the effect of putting on new glasses. The edges of the lenses always distort the view and that takes days to get used to. If you had to switch glasses constantly, it would be really really tiring
Eikka
not rated yet Feb 21, 2016
http://www.agocg....ter3.htm

In 1993, Mon-Williams, Wann and Rushton reported physiological symptoms in a number of subjects following immersion in an HMD. Of the 20 subjects who took part in their experiment, 12 complained of symptoms such as headache, eyestrain and nausea and 4 demonstrated a transient reduction in binocular visual acuity. The subjects also demonstrated signs of binocular stress including changes in heterophoria and an increase in near point of convergence. Mon-Williams and Pascal (1995) suggested that these signs of visual/binocular stress were linked, not only to poor image quality and close working distance of the screens, but more fundamentally with the discrepancy between accommodation and convergence demand when using a stereoscopic HMD.

This problem will occur in any stereoscopic system where the main image is produced on a flat screen and stereo images are provided by displaying slightly different images to each eye
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Feb 22, 2016
but that doesn't necessarily mean it will not be popular in more private interactive moments

Yes. I think that is the main point: interactive. Movies aren't interactive. They are passive consumption.
I've seen footage of VR helmets used in flight sims and that seems like five kinds of awesome to me. Finally you can easily look behind you and see if there's some bugger on your tail.
I'm surely going to buy either the Oculus or the Vive this year and give it a whirl. (I'd also love to have a virtual software development space with n virtual screens. You can never have enough screens when coding)

I think it will make most people nauseous

I think the main issue is latency. The cardboard/phone solutions have much higher latency than dedicated VR hardware. Dpi isn't so much an issue (beyond, say, 1024x768) as getting high frame rates.

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