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The Exciting Immersive Potential of Virtual Reality

21 Nov, 2016 By: Thomas K. Arnold


As we were working on this year’s Movers and Shakers, a listing of the home entertainment industry’s key leaders, motivators and innovators, virtual reality came into my life in a big way, with the arrival of the Sony PlayStation VR.

The moment I put on the headset while my youngest, Hunter, slipped the demo disk into the PlayStation 4, I realized this was not just another quirky fad like 3D. I also realized we are in the very early stages of VR, with so many promises, so much potential, floating in the air above us that try as we might we simply can’t grasp — yet.

Indeed, in one of the virtual worlds on the demo disk I was in a real-life horror show with a demented carny barker I wanted badly to punch in the face — but I couldn’t reach out and do that, even with the Move motion controllers in my hands.

For now, there are still plenty of limitations, but as you roam through the virtual world and look around you, your eyes begin to open to not just the remarkably life-like surroundings but also to the vast store of possibilities that inevitably will come in the future, brought to us, no doubt, under the watch of many of the movers and shakers profiled in the November issue of Home Media Magazine.

For now, VR is the next step in gaming, an interactive, immersive experience that puts you inside a video game. Playing Batman Arkham will never be the same — in the VR version, I am not manipulating Batman, I am Batman, and the horrific opening scene in which young Bruce Wayne’s parents are brutally murdered in a dark alleyway becomes a truly nightmarish experience. (I did, in fact, dream about it the following night; I don’t remember much but it was enough to give me a nocturnal jolt in which I awakened in a sweat.)

Down the road, the possibilities for filmmakers are as daunting as they are appealing — and potentially lucrative. With set storylines, the immersive VR experience will never be quite as, well, immersive as it is in gaming, where you control the action.

But consider a movie where you actually wander into the action — sort of like the creepy girl in The Ring crawling out of the TV screen, only in reverse — and you can look around and see what the characters see. In The Sound of Music, the hills really would come alive, as you look around and take in the breathtaking scenery of the Alps, 360. And in Star Wars, wow — that’s all I need to say.

I can also see movies one day shot in such a way that we can not only enter the action, but also see things from a certain character’s perspective — and through this immersion begin to actually feel what the character is feeling. Imagine the opening scene to Saving Private Ryan — the impact could be immense and filmmaking could be forever changed.

So, yes, I am a big believer in the promise of VR. And thanks so much to the movers and shakers who will play a part in delivering on that promise.



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