Mobile Virtual Reality Gets an Interactive Upgrade
What is interactive mobile VR?
Great question. The technologies are advancing so fast it’s hard to keep up. So, let’s talk about the different tech that makes this possible.
Mobile VR and The 360 Degree Video Experience
Mobile phones have become the display of choice for the younger generations. They communicate, create media, and play games all from a single mobile device. And with VR technologies like Google cardboard and Samsung’s Gear VR you can use that mobile device to immerse yourself in 360 degree content. Currently, 360 degree images and videos are quite static. However, because you can change your viewpoint within the media by simply turning your head, you get a much larger content experience. But you’re still at the mercy of the content producer regarding where you can go within the scene. This is much less of an actual “virtual reality” and more of an advanced viewing experience for video and images.
Real VR is a True Virtual Reality
True virtual reality requires an advanced system to render complete environments for you to navigate through. The best examples are found in the gaming world. If you’ve ever experienced a first person shooter game, then you’ve experienced the type of systems that are now used for creating VR content. Gaming engines like Unity 3D and Unreal provide developers the tools they need to create completely simulated environments for users to move and interact via headset tethered to a PC, and interacting with hand controllers.
What's the Difference Between 360 VR and Virtual Reality
The main difference between between the cheaper 360 headset experience, and the more expensive gaming headset experience is in the interactivity. You can experience a scene from different perspectives using 360 degree headgear and a mobile phone. But you cannot interact within that experience. But VR gaming is currently so processor intensive that your headset needs to be tethered to a high end gaming computer. Also, producing 360 degree videos and images is inexpensive compared to creating a complete virtual reality experience for gaming within a tethered headset.
I’m still wondering why 360 degree videos are called virtual reality. But that’s what the market has settled on, and so I’m not going to fight it. The spectrum of what is being called VR is quite broad. In general, there are cheap/free headset for viewing 360 video/image content. And both can be viewed online or offline using a mobile device slipped into the headset. And then there are fully immersive, computer generated, environments that allow you to move around and even manipulate the objects in that space using a headset and hand controllers. That’s it. One is an inexpensive viewing experience. The other is an expensive fully immersive and interactive experience.
Everything in VR is Changing...Again
Now that we fully understand that, I’m going to tell you how it’s all about to change. The inexpensive viewing experience is about to become as interactive as the more expensive VR options. I found two companies at CES2017 with products being released this year: NOLOvr.com and Ximmerse.com. For this blog post the companies are not important unless you want to fact check me.
The important part to understand is that this tech is moving FAST! For only $89 and the price of your smartphone and headset you will be able to experience fully immersive and interactive content. Will the experience be as good as the more expensive HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or Sony Playstation VR? Probably not yet. But it won’t be long before your phone has more than enough VR processing power.
Is it Time to Care About VR in Corporate Training?
What does this mean for you as an eLearning/Training professional? It means that it’s getting harder and harder for you to ignore it. Virtual reality is not a fad. It’s not just another shiny object to distract you. It is, as many have said, the next generation of computing.
You don’t need to be “all in” today. But if you are currently on the fence about the reality of VR, I’m telling you it’s time to get off the fence and get in the game. You should know what Unity3D is. You should know that there is no such thing as a rapid authoring tool for VR training development…at least not yet.
If you have experienced 360 degree videos within a Samsung VR or Google cardboard headset, and were disillusioned. This new tech should improve that experience immensely. I would encourage you to keep an open mind and stay connected with those of us following the VR industry closely.
As with all new shifts in the tech landscape there will be a lot to learn. Some will over hype it while others continue to deny it’s usefulness. It’s important to find your personal comfort zone. Many of you do training within industries that may never need VR for training. Others will move their entire training programs into a virtual training space. There is no one-size-fits-all option. There never has been.