Traveling via Virtual Reality
Thanks to virtual reality, we can now travel around the world while lounging on the couch in our living rooms.
360-degree augmented reality (AR) videos provide a panoramic vista, but the viewer remains an outsider looking in. The beauty of the virtual reality (VR) experience is that it’s literally encapsulating the visual landscape; with the aid of a headset, such as Samsung’s Gear VR, your brain thinks your body is inside it.
Based in Sydney, Australia, Kain Tietzel, a pioneer VR developer for Atlas Obscura, says that even though the VR experience is mind-blowing, the technology is still in the dial-up phase. “Future headsets will be equipped with predictive technology – the ability to anticipate and respond accordingly to where your eyes are focused,” he adds. “The evolution of headsets will morph into something along the lines of contact lenses.”
But until then, a more modest evolution would be along the lines of what Austin, Texas-based producer Jennifer Simonson believes. “I am super-excited about the future of VR. As headsets become more portable and affordable, more and more people will be able to experience virtual-reality travel,” she says. “I hope we come to a point where the VR headsets are as ubiquitous as smartphones, so whenever anyone wants to ‘travel,’ they can just put on their headsets and go on a short adventure.”
Simonson also adds that experiences drive engagement. “As a virtual-reality filmmaker, I can place the viewer into the destination. The viewer is completely immersed both visually and audibly, making them feel like they are actually there,” she shares. “VR eliminates the time and expense of travel, so a person can walk the ancient Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, view the great pyramids of Egypt, and watch the sunset over the Grand Canyon – all from the living room. When I made my first few videos in Mexico, I presented them to my 96-year-old grandmother, who was always a lover of travel, but is no longer able to travel due to health reasons.”
Jason Lopez, a Silicon Valley technology writer, says that the upcoming release of Apple Glass will serve as a big step toward wide-scale societal and B2B adaptation of spatial technologies. The applications are already changing the landscape of gaming, real estate, healthcare, and military-training environments.
Additionally, Tietzel mentions VR as a therapeutic modality for cancer patients’ treatments, where soothing VR exotic travel destination experiences have resulted in a reduction of pain medications.
Moreover, Lopez notes that Portland, Oregon-based Object Theory creates AR environments that make it easier and cheaper for their clients to design things like bridges or hospital operating rooms. “Instead of the time and expense of shipping costly equipment to a site and staging a demo operating room, they do it virtually,” he says. “One thing is really clear – in the theatrical entertainment space, 360-viewing demands a brand-new language. In a flat-screen world, time is compressed with jump cuts. We don’t think a thing about it when we watch. But in 360, conventional film-editing theory doesn’t work very well. That’s partly because 360 lends itself to the experience of actually being there, not just observing through a window.”
With your headset on, a weekend in Paris takes on a whole new meaning.
For more details, visit Start Beyond: @start_beyond – www.startbeyond.co & Atlas Obscura: @atlasobscura – www.atlasobscura.com
Writer: Thomas Wilmer
Photographers: Start Beyond & Lumenbrite