IMAX wants to add VR to your next movie, by Rob Pegoraro

BERLIN — At a press conference before the IFA trade show here in Berlin, Germany, IMAX announced plans to add a bit of virtual reality to its IMAX theater experience with the opening of a new VR center in Los Angeles equipped with a new StarVR headset developed by Acer.

These short virtual-reality videos would essentially be the in-theater equivalent of the extras on a Blu-ray movie: additional content you can explore in virtual reality, the dessert you indulge in after a cinematic main course. And IMAX thinks you’ll want to pay $10 or so for this pleasure.

Rob Lister, IMAX’s chief business-development officer, described it as a logical extension of his employer’s mission “to give people an experience they can’t get anywhere else” and said the company (IMAX) is talking to “virtually every major Hollywood studio” about creating VR productions.

How it will work

Will you really want to pay $10 to experience one of these VR shorts after shelling out $15 or so for an IMAX flick? Lister seems to think so — explaining during an interview Wednesday that the experience would be more than just sitting inertly with a screen strapped to your face.

That is, it won’t be like that infamous photo from this February’s Mobile World Congress of Facebook founder and VR evangelist Mark Zuckerberg striding past an audience all wearing Samsung GearVR headsets.

Instead, Lister said, you’d have 15 to 20 “pods,” each with six to eight feet of space for you to walk around, HTC Vive-style, and explore a “heavily interactive” VR environment that would offer more than a simple movie trailer.

“I’m thinking seven to 10 minutes is kind of the duration of the ideal companion piece,” he explained. “It needs to stand on its own and have its own narrative. People wouldn’t pay $10 to watch a trailer.”

After L.A., IMAX is eyeing locations in New York, London and Shanghai. They could be added to an existing IMAX theater or set up in a mall or as a standalone establishment.

Google is also helping with the initiative, having announced a collaboration with IMAX in May. Acer, in turn, recruited game and VR developer Starbreeze Studios to develop the StarVR headset you’ll wear at one of these IMAX annexes.

The StarVR headset features two 5.5-in. displays that yield more than five million pixels of resolution and a wider field of view, 210 degrees instead of the usual 100 degrees. Starbreeze CEO Bo Andersson Klint bragged at Acer’s IFA press event: “We want to create the Matrix.”

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yaho finance

VR Action Camera Field Test: Ricoh Theta S and 360Fly 4K, by Adam Ryder



If you haven’t gotten to try out a 360° action camera yet, you may find yourself boggled by the proliferation of forms and functions that the new cameras have. While no two are exactly alike, they share the ability to produce immersive, “spherical” videos, whose point of view can be changed later, allowing viewers to navigate around the video, using either their mouse cursor, smart device, or virtual reality headset.
To get a handle on these devices for myself, I recently road-tested two popular models, the Ricoh Theta S and the 360Fly 4K, on my my morning bicycle commute. Using a third-party mount, I attached each camera to the same spot on my handlebars on two consecutive days with comparable lighting conditions. Afterwords, I unloaded the videos that each camera made using the manufacturer’s proprietary software.
The quality of the videos shown are not fully representative of the maximum resolution attainable by each device. When uploading the footage to YouTube or DailyMotion (two hosting services that support immersive video), videos are compressed for streaming and quality is reduced. As this format gains tractions, streaming services may improve their compression, but for now, resolution takes a back seat to the more experiential aspects of the medium online.

About half as old as the Ricoh, 360Fly’s 4K action action camera, takes a different approach to capturing spherical video. With a single, 240° view-angle ultra-wide lens, the 360Fly resembles a miniature geodesic dome, encased in a black faceted shell. While not hewing to the 16:9 aspect ratio that defines most 4K resolution standards, the pixel density of the square 2800 x 2800 video qualifies the 360Fly 4K for equivalent quality, though it might not numerically compute at first glance. Its 30 fps high-resolution footage and omni-directional audio are stored on 64 GB of internal memory and a single button in the center of the device controls power, mode selection and shutter control.
Videos from the 360Fly 4K can be transmitted wirelessly to your Android or iOS device via Bluetooth, or downloaded to your desktop via an included proprietary USB dock. A free, downloadable application called 360Fly Director is simple yet versatile and allows you to import, organize, merge, trim, and export video to YouTube and the company’s own immersive video streaming platform. 360fly also offers a mobile platform that allows consumers to shoot, edit and share videos made with the device.Read More:

popular photography

Facebook’s new skunkworks photo team wants to bring virtual reality to the masses, by Kurt Wagner

From the sunny rooftop patio at Facebook’s satellite office in Seattle, research scientist Matt Uyttendaele showed off just how easy it has become to masquerade as a professional photographer.

Arm outstretched, holding a smartphone-sized 360-degree camera he bought on Amazon, Uyttendaele smiled in the general direction of the camera’s tiny lens.

“It really doesn’t matter where I point because it’s going to capture everything,” he said. “Cheese!”

With the click of a button, the camera did capture everything, from the blue waters of Lake Union to the tippy top of Seattle’s iconic Space Needle. “That’s it. Just one shot,” Uyttendaele added. “If I posted this photo to Facebook, you’d be able to pan around with your phone so that you can experience this spot that we’re standing in.”

The photo turned out great. It also relied on a camera that retails for $350

When Facebook paid $2 billion for Oculus back in 2014, it did so under the assumption that virtual reality would be the next big platform — the mobile phone after the mobile phone. That’s probably not going to happen if capturing the perfect 360-degree photo or video requires hundreds of dollars in camera equipment.

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Roller Coasters Ride Into Dizzying Realm of Virtual Reality, by Daniel Michaels

RUST, Germany—For roller-coaster fans bored by loops and drops, design professor Thomas Wagner offers the extra twist of flying dragons, battles with aliens or a midair rescue by Superman.

They can all be experienced at newly equipped amusement parks—in virtual reality.

Mr. Wagner last year launched the first VR gear for roller coasters in partnership with Mack Rides GmbH, one of the world’s top producers of amusement park rides. This year Six Flags Entertainment Corp. has been introducing the headsets, which use Samsung Electronics Co.’s phones, across its 18 North American parks.

A competing system, developed by British 3-D and VR studio Figment Productions Ltd., opened at an English amusement park in March.

Riders wearing the specially reinforced VR headgear are immersed in a fantasyland where they soar, plunge and twist in sync with a coaster’s motion.
Theme-park operators are enthusiastic because the innovation lets them repackage old rides digitally, without the cost of building or refurbishing a giant physical structure. That, in turn, can entice repeat visits from potentially jaded thrill-seekers.

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wall street journal

VR to Drive Widespread Adoption of 360 Degree Cameras, by David Nagel

Fueled by a growth in virtual and augmented reality, 360 degree cameras are expected to see rapid growth over the next five years. 360-degree cameras allow users to shoot spherical videos and still images, which can be shared on services like Facebook and YouTube and experienced as virtual reality using a phone, tablet or dedicated VR headset.
The 360-degree video below, for example, shows a Blue Angels flight from the perspective of one of the planes’ cockpits. On a phone or tablet, users can view the scene from different angles just by turning their devices left, right, up or down. (On a traditional computer, these movements are controlled using a finger or mouse.)

VR’s applications for education have been much lauded, and tech heavyweights have begun investing in the technology, in part to both enable and capitalize on educational opportunities. Google, for example, has been offering its low-cost Google Cardboard kits, which, coupled with the Google Expeditions service, provides VR-based educational experiences and learning activities.

LG 360 degree camera
360-degree cameras typically feature two or more ultra-wide-angle lenses whose images are stitched together to create a spherical panorama. The LG camera shown here uses two lenses whose individual fields of view are slightly greater than 180 degrees.

While VR content like Google Expeditions is being produced by third parties specifically targeting education, end users, too, are able to create VR content for phones and headsets by using 360 degree cameras to capture spherical (or hemispherical) images of museums, parks, concerts and historic locations. Cameras are already offers for end users by LG ($199), Samsung and Rico ($350) and many others.

And those are gaining in popularity.

All told, according to market research firm ABI Research, some 6 million consumer and prosumer cameras are expected to ship by 2021. (That’s out of a total of 70 million VR devices that are forecast to ship by then.)

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the journal

First Light Field Footage Shows Potential, Pitfalls of Roomscale Cinematic Virtual Reality

One of the promises of virtual reality (VR) is that it will one day allow viewers to step into a movie. New demo footage from virtual reality camera maker Lytro shows that it will take some more time, and technical advancements, before Hollywood can make good on that promise.

Lytro officially unveiled a 30-second clip Tuesday that has been shot with its new light field virtual reality camera. The clip is a cheeky take on the classic conspiracy theory that NASA faked the moon landing, showing viewers an astronaut that’s presumably Neil Armstrong taking that historic first step — only to be told by a whole film crew lurking in the shadows that there would be another take.

Lytro is using the footage to show Hollywood studios, VR startups and other potential customers what its camera is capable of. The company officially introduced the camera system, which is being called Immerge, last November, and has touted it as a massive step forward for recording cinematic VR experiences.

Lytro uses light field technology, which means that it records all the light within a certain space as it bounces around in all directions. This allows the viewer to look around in that space just like one would in a real-world 3D environment, complete with the ability to look behind objects, and see the light and reflection change depending on one’s vantage point.

That’s a big deal for cinematic VR, especially when it comes to higher-end VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. Animated VR experiences have long allowed users of those headsets to move through the space of an experience, and visual effects folks have had some success combining 3D video with game engine animations to make experiences more immersive.

But when it comes to cinematic content, VR video still delegates the viewer to be a spectator. One can look around and see the action play out on a 360-degree canvas, but not really break the wall and step into the scene.

Light field affords that option — in theory, anyways. The 30-second clip that Lytro started to show this week still requires users to watch from a distance, seated, and not move their head too much to the side.

That makes the whole experience a bit underwhelming, at least for a layman’s eye. Sure, there are notable improvements over regular VR videos. One can, for example, move one’s head sideways or back and forth, and actually see the visual world correspond to that head movement. And when the astronaut steps closer, moving one’s head results in different reflections in his helmet’s visor. But sitting on a chair, and slightly swaying one’s head, still doesn’t exactly feel like stepping into a movie.

Lytro VP of engineering Tim Milliron told Variety during a recent demo that these constraints were largely due to the current camera configuration, which is based on 300 individual lenses, and is capable of capturing a space of up to five by five feet.

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‘Iron Man’ Director Jon Favreau To Release Debut VR Movie Next Week, by Jamie Feltham

Back in April, we reported that Jon Favreau, the director behind Hollywood hits like Iron Man and The Jungle Book, was making his own VR film. A few months on and Favreau is already preparing to release that movie.

The New York Times revealed the experience, named Gnomes & Goblins. Rather than a simple 360 degree experience, the kind that many directors are interested in, Favreau’s ‘film’ appears to be a fully VR and interactive piece. In it, you’ll find yourself deep within a thick jungle, apparently not too dissimilar to that of the recent live action version of The Jungle Book. You’re accompanied by a small goblin that lives within the lush surroundings and looks like Favreau’s sketch above.

Viewed using an HTC Vive for now, the experience lets you grab items such as fruit from trees using the position-tracked controllers. Your actions throughout the film will directly effect your relationship with the goblin, changing the story as you go.

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The future of mobile video is virtual reality, by Mike Wadhera

After the dust settles, the real takeaway from Instagram’s cloning of Snapchat is that the connected camera revolution is just beginning. Instagram Stories sends a powerful message to hundreds of millions of people for the first time: No moment is too small to capture with your smartphone camera.

A cult classic for many in the VR community, the 1995 film Strange Days shares a vision of a future where you could re-live a memory from the viewpoint of anyone equipped with a wearable recording device. You also could play back your own recordings whenever you chose and as often as you wanted. And when you played a recording back, you could follow the action with the freedom to look around.

The technology as depicted in the film  —  which had a dark side to be sure —  is far off, if ever fully obtainable.

But in a world where no moment is too small to record with a mobile sensor, and one in which time spent in virtual reality keeps going up, interesting parallels start to emerge with our smartphones and headsets.

Let’s look at how the future could play out in the real world by observing three key drivers: VR video adoption, mobile-video user needs and the smartphone camera rising tide…

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Is This Film the First True Live-Action Virtual Reality? by Peter Rubin


THE AGE OF the “live-action virtual reality experience” hasn’t been long, but it’s been busy. From the New York Times to the Sundance Film Festival, from the UN to the NBA, there’s no shortage of offerings—and that’s not even counting Facebook and YouTube, both of which are investing in VR video in a big way.

There’s just one problem: what’s being called “live-action VR” isn’t exactly that. It’s 360-degree video, and as such has one very key limitation: you can’t move inside it. You can swivel your head, and you can look up and down, but you can’t lean forward to change your perspective, or peek around an object. You have three “degrees of freedom” (what’s known as 3DOF), as opposed to the six that you have in computer-generated experiences like a videogame or an animated film. And despite a few companies that are digitizing people and placing them in 3-D environments, we have yet to see true live-action VR that places you in navigable space.

Until now.

Photography company Lytro, which early last year shifted from still cameras into the world of VR, has unveiled what it’s calling the first 6DOF 360-degree film. Moon lasts less than 45 seconds, but it shows a peek at what simply hasn’t been possible yet. It is, VP of engineering Tim Milliron says, Lytro’s “coming-out party.” “We’ve been working on the tech a long time,” he says, “and this is proof that you can do it.”

In the short, an astronaut standing on the surface of the moon delivers Neil Armstrong’s famous 1969 speech. “That’s one small step for man,” he says, the Earth hovering in the sky over his shoulder, “one giant step for mankind.” Oops.

“Cut!” a voice over your shoulder yells. The lights go up. You’re not on the moon at all—you’re on a soundstage, and when you turn around, Stanley Kubrick is sitting in a director’s chair looking pissed. “I’m an actor, not an astronaut,” the guy in the space suit says. It’s quick, but it’s cute. (And if you’re still hungry for the-moon-landing-is-a-Kubrick-filmed-hoax conspiracy theories, we can happily recommend Room 238 and Operation Avalanche.)

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Blockchain, Virtual Reality, and Others Disrupting the Music Industry, by Diana Labrien

The music industry has always been hugely influenced by technology. Think about it. The CD, streaming music services, even the concept of plugging a guitar into an amp have all been technological revolutions. Without technology, the concept of layering tracks simply would not exist today. This trend continues today. Technology influences, and even more interesting, it disrupts the status quo and changes the game in many ways. This makes way for creative startups and indie artists to get a foothold in what was once a very closed off industry. Here are some ways in which people are using technology to create disruption right now.

Virtually Reality Is Changing Music on Many Levels
There are many ways that musicians are using VR to reach out to their audience. First of all, some artists have begun using VR as a means of promoting new releases. Then, there is the obvious application of VR as a part of performance. Artists have been livestreaming performances, for quite some time now. That’s nothing new. What is new is using VR technology so that fans who can’t get to a show for financial or geographical reasons can still experience that show in a way that is as close to a live experience as possible. The appeal to people who live in small towns who rarely get major acts should be obvious.

BlockChain Becomes a Game Changer
Here’s a frightening thought. There are songs being viewed and downloaded over music streaming sites hundreds of thousands of times each day. In many cases, the people who should be receiving compensation for this are not.This isn’t because of piracy or plagiarism. It’s because the information associated with this music is not up to date. This means that streaming services simply have no way to identify artists and properly compensate them. The answer to this might be BlockChain. If musicians can upload proper, verified information to this channel, it can provide streaming services a way to pay them for their art…

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