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March, 2016

VR – the next generation of storytelling

2016 is said to be the year of Virtual Reality (VR), and with the recent release of devices such as the Oculus Rift and Samsung’s Gear VR, as well as the hotly awaited Playstation VR, we’ve been checking out the hype with our humble Google Cardboard glasses.

Apps such as VRSE and RYOT have been getting us all excited about the technology’s potential for advertising, documentaries, movies and music videos. VRSE believes that through virtual reality, we can become more compassionate, more empathetic, more connected and ultimately, more human (which we agree with). It’s a powerful storytelling tool that really engages the senses.

Watching such immersive documentaries has a new kind of impact – it feels like you’re actually there. And for someone like me who loves to travel, these realistic glimpses of far-off places are fascinating. Seeing the inside of a refugee camp, or watching school kids dancing in rural Peru gives a whole new understanding of life in different places and cultures around the world.

Some people worry that the experiences can be “too real” and could potentially have negative psychological effects on the user. There are concerns that it could replace or remove real-life interactions in a world where we are already focused on our screens for the best part of our day. Having said that, such interactions could really benefit socially isolated or disadvantaged people.

For the designers amongst us, the technology opens up a whole new area of design considerations. Designing for a flat screen vs 360 degrees is vastly different, and with the ability to look in any direction, at any number of things, at any given time, how do you make sure the user is looking where you want them to, using the space as you intended? The use of sound, choreography and subtle indicators becomes quite important in assisting cognitive decision-making.

It’s not all serious, though – some surreal music videos have had us spinning around in our chairs giggling to ourselves! It’s not the most social of technologies but it is definitely fun.

As with any new technology, there are lots of issues to consider, but if this is just the beginning, then the future possibilities are massive. Exciting times!