Virtual Reality

This morning I visited Radiant Images. I discovered their company last week while attending the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. It was quite by chance that I walked into their showcase across from the New Frontiers VR exhibit.

No amount of coffee can wake me up as much as this set-up did. Immediately upon entering, I am offered a headset. They ask what I want to watch. “Something fast-paced and colorful,” I reply.

They select a trippy music video. A pair of headphones are placed over my ears and the journey begins. At first I only look up and down, left and right. The imagery is better than any 3-D movie effect. It’s as if I am really there, in the music video-scape. I have spacial sense of where everything is and of its actual size.

The imagery flows by but I am transfixed on what is ahead. Then, it pulls my vision around. To have a 360 degree view of this music video was truly immersive. Accompanied by music, I leave the display room off of Main Street to this new virtual reality.

It all ends too soon. I remove the headset and the headphones. “Welcome back,” says the man who set me up. They know that for those three and a half minutes, you are somewhere else. I had to know more.

Karl Alsens, business development at Radiant Images answered a number of my questions about the VR display. Radiant Images is the company that provided camera equipment for many of the VR films available that day. It’s the first time I’ve heard of VR cameras and have to check it out.

Back in LA I visit the Radiant Images office. This morning actually. The modern office space is packed with cool tech. A key pass slides over a touch lock, and we enter another room with more equipment. “Have you ever tried Google Earth in VR?” asks Alsens. “No, I never have,” is my reply.

It was a little tricky to navigate at first. Not only is the menu and options in front, but all around. I zoom over Yellostone Park, a small village in Spain, the mountains in Chile, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz in San Francisco.

If only real travel was that fast. I take off the headset. The room around me seems smaller, when I walk it feels slower, clumsier. Alsens knows, he’s a pro at this. He comments that it is a weird moment, the transition between reality and virtual reality. I can’t tell what it is, maybe something to do with the bodies comprehension of space in each ‘reality’?

About an hour after entering Radiant Images, I walk out. Today their camera technology took me to another place. It’s scary and exciting how real it seems. It’s like future tech has suddenly become a reality.

Alsens talked briefly about how VR will change storytelling in film. In VR they can have you jump from scene to scene and from character to character. Intensity is going up. Way up. Before this experience I would have said that VR doesn’t come close to real life experiences. Now, I’d say this virtual may be the new reality.

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