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DISCOVERING VIRTUAL REALITY

01.04.2016

The newspaper Folha de São Paulo sponsored a panel discussion about Virtual Reality on March 30.

 

Ricardo Laganaro, the O2 director who’s created various projects developed with virtual reality (the 360 degree Ivete Sangalo video, The Museum of Tomorrow and São Paulo Fashion Week), was one of the panelists. Take a look at this article written by Roberto Dias for Folha de São Paulo:

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Panel discussion about virtual reality held on Wednesday, March 30 in the Folha Auditorium

 

So-called virtual reality isn’t just a new technology and can’t be boiled down to the glasses that have become such a success over the past few months. This was the main point emphasized by the four professionals who participated in the panel discussion about this format held on Wednesday, March 30 at the Folha Auditorium.

 

“It’s a new layer of communication,” says director Tadeu Jungle, who moderated the discussion. He compared this novelty to things like the arrival of cinema, television and the internet. “For the first time you can be in someone else’s place. This will change everything.”

 

Jungle directed the documentary Rio de Lama (River of Mud), which tells the story of the Mariana tragedy which killed 19 people and left a path of destruction through the valley of the Doce River. The film will begin being distributed on Monday, April 4 – Folha subscribers can see the premiere and meet the film’s production crew.

 

The documentary was filmed with virtual reality techniques which allows viewers to “see” 360 degree images and feel as though they are physically immersed in the scene – in fact, saying “see” doesn’t do this justice as we’ll find out in a few paragraphs.

 

So-called VR (“virtual reality”) has quickly turned into the big high tech subject of the moment due to the interest shown by different players, including IT giants.

 

Attempts to transport the viewer into a scene began over a century ago. One of the panelists Ricardo Justus, director of innovation for Record TV, recalled that at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair there was already an attraction called Mareorama that used pistons and panoramic backgrounds to give visitors the sensation that they were traveling on a ship from Marseilles to Yokohama.

 

Various experiments of this kind have been tried since. It’s only been in the past decade, however, that the innovation responsible for this technology’s explosion has appeared: virtual reality glasses. They incorporate the elements that give the user the feeling of being in another place (which in the case of Mareorama, for example, was provided by the pistons and the backgrounds).

 

The “father” of these glasses is a 23 year old American named Palmer Luckey. His company, Oculus VR, was bought by Facebook two years ago for $ 5 billion.

 

The glasses that have had the greatest success use the screen of a smartphone which fits inside them. Even though it still isn’t “great,” the quality of the video image will be good enough to drive the technology forward in the panelists’ opinion.

 

With the main technological barrier overcome, the race is on now to learn to construct narratives in VR.”No one is doing this just for the technology,” says one of the panelists Ricardo Laganaro of O2 Filmes. “Virtual reality really has the power to change the way we see the world.”

 

He points out that most of the discussion is ignoring the question of sound, a variable that could be even more important than “traditional” cinema as the narrative thread, and even more difficult to get right given the difficulty in controlling where the consumer looks. “This is one of the great problems that VR still has to resolve.”

 

Laganaro reminds us that scripts have to be different: instead of a linear narrative, scripts have to be based on key points, thinking of all the places where the consumer can go.

 

Even longstanding definitions of cinema need to change. In VR, no one talks about a close-up. “It’s a close sphere,” Jungle says.

 

On the other hand, even though filming demands that we think spherically, there’s a lot of doubt about how much of this the consumer is actually going to use, because at some point the user will get tired of turning around.”I think the narrative will end up being in front, with a width of around 140 degrees. Once in awhile something behind will attract your attention and you’ll turn to look,” says Jungle.

 

There’s also a debate about how to use VR technology without disrespecting the limits of the body. Since it’s something that “tricks” the brain, it’s common for those who use the glasses to feel nauseous, especially in scenes in which the “character” is moving but the user is not.

 

More challenging than all of this, however, will be understanding the ability of the user to influence the story. Here is where we put in check the use of “see” for someone who’s consuming this kind of content. Can users help someone in front of them? Can they speak with other characters? And if they do, how should they answer? Is it possible to change the direction of a story?

 

This is the most advanced frontier of VR, and in theory it should approached by someone with computer graphic resources which can handle interactions like games. “This technology in my opinion is the most disruptive,” Justus argues.

 

Despite all these doubts, this disruption is occurring at a moment when Brazilians are not dependent on what’s going on outside the country.

 

“The technologies being used here are the same as those being used in other parts of the world,” says another panelist Rawlinson Terrabuio, the founder and director of Beenoculus. “We’re on the same team.”

 

Terrabuio’s company has focused especially on education, which can take advantage of VR technology to lower the costs of professional training and stimulate student interest.

 

“The main problem is the language. To interest young people, you need to use their language, TV and videogames,” he concludes.