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September 2017

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Page 31 of 43 30 POST SEPTEMBER 2017 SPECIAL REPORT: VR/AR VIRTUAL REALITY The potential for VR in entertainment is al- ready being exploited. Games, that major arena of innovation since the earliest days of CG, are bound to make great use of it — after all, gamers obviously enjoy immersing themselves in virtual worlds. Dramas, comedies, thrillers… in fact, all forms of acting entertainment are a different story, as it may be more complicated to adapt an offering in this space to the uncer- tainties of a 360-degree environment. One problem writers and designers are wres- tling with is how to focus the audience on a particular scene of action. Another major consid- eration is how to accommodate all the possible scenarios as the audience wanders freely through the world of the movie — an issue already en- countered by narrative game developers. At the very least, one must consider the vast amounts of data involved: The visuals and voice tracks that must be stored, sorted, and transmitted, not to mention created in the first place. Is a viable market in sight? NDREAMS nDreams is a game development company founded in 2006 by CEO Patrick O'Luanaigh and now focusing on HMD apps. Its offices are in Farnborough, England, not far from London. "We've done many brainstorms about where VR could go and what would be interesting, and you end up with pieces of paper that could cover a whole wall," O'Luanaigh says. "It goes into ed- ucation, film and TV, and then hotels and pent- house apartments. If you're selling a house, you could actually wander around it! Then you have live broadcasts…." These are only the possibilities that spring to mind now, but as with all media, what is now generates what will be, and who can say where this technology may lead? nDreams' initial products are games, which are the most likely to generate revenue in the immedi- ate future, company officials contend. According to O'Luanaigh, those who buy HMDs initially are "the sort of people who are into new technolo- gy. They've got the money." They also tend to be gamers. This year the price of HMDs will fall dra- matically, and that's when a potentially much wider audience will begin to take on the idea of virtual experiences and virtual worlds. This wider public, O'Luanaigh says, will at least initially step into VR with experiences and environments that provide the opportunity to be somewhere other than here. "We have this thing called 'Perfect Beach,' which is completely opposite of a game. You just chill and relax, you feel like you're back on holiday for a few minutes, getting away from the crazi- ness of the world," O'Luanaigh says. JAUNT Another company already successfully exploiting the business potential of VR is Jaunt (Santa Monica, CA), founded in 2013 by Arthur van Hoff and Jens Christensen, now company CTO, with George Kliavkoff as CEO/president. Jaunt has developed its own technology and product, in readiness for the coming revolution of VR as HMDs hit the wider markets of mainstream personal entertainment. In 2015 I spoke with Jaunt Studios' then president Cliff Plumer. This was still a time when the industry was just beginning to ramp up. Plumer has since moved on to become CEO of the immersive enter- tainment company The Void. Plumer came from the VFX industry, working closely with George Lucas on the first of the digi- tized series of Star Wars prequels, later assuming the role of CEO of Digital Domain. He saw 2015 as the year when VR was introduced to the content production community, allowing them to develop over the coming years the apps that will catch the public's interest. At the time, Plumer said Jaunt created its own versions of experiences for a variety of audienc- es, aiming to give the viewer the opportunity to observe an environment from a unique and other- wise inaccessible viewpoint. It provided VR tours for holiday planners, a vertiginous north face ascent alongside a fellow climber, and another that gives the viewer the opportunity to be on stage with Paul McCartney in concert. Jaunt was founded in 2013 and has been developing its own, unique VR technology. Jaunt is developing its own VR technology for unique experiences, such as this concert.

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