Since the advent of virtual reality, there has always been a certain degree of confusion as to whether 360 videos fall within the notion of VR or they are actually something different, usually more “real” than VR, and yet “not really” 100% virtual reality.
On Wikipedia, we read that VR is a computer-simulated reality that replicates an environment and simulates a physical presence in another world, allowing users to interact in it.
Still according to Wikipedia, 360° videos are videos of a real-world scene, where the view in every direction is recorded at the same time. During playback, the viewer has control of the viewing direction.
What these 2 technologies have in common is that they are immersive, truly immersive, to an extent that is way beyond any flat, more traditional technology.
A 360° video is an immersive experience that uses only real-world content as the central media. VR is computer-generated content. Both technologies give viewers the illusion of “being there”. Yet, 360 video is generally a non-interactive format, whereas VR generally is.
Social VR, that is the most powerful and disruptive component of VR, allows people to engage with each other as avatars, despite their physical distance in computer-generated worlds, for gamers and/or learners, or around 3D renderings via VR tools that allow some degree of collaboration between engineers working from different locations. One of the main criticisms made to virtual reality by its detractors is that the “worlds” where people are immersed in are “merely” computer-generated and not “real-world” scenarios.
360 videos, instead, have been used to record concerts, adventures, sports, travels, tourist attractions, to make people feel they are plunged for real in the place. Yet the main criticism made to 360 videos is the lack of interaction both between people as well as with the showcased world or experience itself.
Adding Reality to Virtual Reality: The Future is Now
At the back of most people’s head, the idea that one day it would be possible to somehow bring the real world into virtual reality is pretty obvious. Yet, how this would happen seemed so far impossible to determine.
When asked, people say that a 360° video is not the same as “real VR” and the two terms are not interchangeable. Yet, they both are an immersive experience, and people may end up agreeing that 360 videos and VR sit happily alongside each other, and you can go for one or the other depending on your need.
Immersive 360 Videos with Avatar Interaction
Lately, however, something has changed. VR technology now allows incorporating into social VR environments a unique feature that empowers people to experience 360 videos immersively inside any 3D-designed environment. Once immersed in the holographic 360 video, people can interact with the other avatars that are also in the environment watching the same video. In a nutshell, reality enters virtual reality by immersing people into a 360 video and empowering them to engage with the other avatars online.
But, what happens if people don’t want to be disturbed and want to focus on the video only? No problem: they can always switch to “full immersion mode” and experience the 360 video alone by themselves.
New Endless Applications
Blending 360 videos with the opportunities given by social VR to allow remote interaction between avatars, opens up new applications and enhanced experiences. We cannot imagine any training, nor business, marketing, or entertainment event, to be run in 2D anymore.
360 videos holographically projected into VR rooms can be used to show experiences, objects, operations, presentations, machinery and devices of any kind and any size, in real settings and locations with any degree of complexity, with a trainer who, as avatar explains how things work and get questions and comments.
Presentations on any subject can now be given with the support of reality. As well as discussing product presentations, tourist destinations, grand openings, large conferences, complex medical operations, engineering challenges. The surface of Mars can be experienced by everyone regardless of where they are located, and discussed with professors that can project any single star and planet of the solar system.
The 5G Revolution
And there is more – with the upcoming 5G. Imagine, concerts, TV shows, business conferences and medical congresses, live shows of any kind, corporate events, town halls, political conventions, business meetings be streamed live in 360, with the people that are connecting remotely can engage with each other as avatars inside this 360 video. This can open up immense opportunities, yet untapped and even still unconceivable, to revolutionize the world.Guest Post
About the Guest Author(s)
Martina Ori, PhD, is Vice President Business Development & Corporate Strategy at Hyperfair, Inc., a San Francisco-based SaaS company that created the world’s leading platform for enterprise events in virtual reality. Martina leads the strategic and operational vision of Hyperfair’s business development and marketing efforts. Passionate about virtual reality, immersive technologies and innovation, frequently featured as guest blogger and speaker about VR at events such as Augmented World Expo and Mobile World Congress.