Rikard Steiber, the president of Viveport at HTC Vive, discussed opportunities for VR content in conversation with World Screen’s Anna Carugati during a MIPTV keynote.
“We’re still in the early phase” for VR, Steiber said, with the technology largely being used by high-income early adopters, notably gamers. “Education is so important. I can see how effective the medium is and, of course, we want to attract creators who have vocational content to use virtual reality. We can bring in the teachers. The same thing for creators or people who have great IP, television or movies. Even brands. There are endless opportunities.”
On how traditional TV creators make the move to VR, Steiber said, “What’s fascinating with 360 video, for example, is it may not be real VR but it’s immersive storytelling. You put the camera there and get out of the way. You can’t do the close-up zoom in on Tom Cruise when he’s feeling angry. You just have to capture it. It’s nonlinear storytelling, so the user can choose a path rather than having something pre-defined. Could the current storytellers do it? I don’t know. I think there are a lot that won’t make it. There will be a breed of new, young talent who can understand both the essence of storytelling and how you can use this technology and this medium to tell that story really well in completely new ways.”
HTC is working as the VR partner on Warner Bros.’s upcoming Steven Spielberg film Ready Player One. “The best way we’ve found so far to explain virtual reality is to use this mixed reality so you can see what the person in VR is doing. I had the opportunity to read the script and what the book [the movie is based on] and the movie do is take you to these different environments. It will visualize, like The Matrix did 19 years ago, what virtual reality could be.” Steiber hopes the VR experience for the film will widen the appeal of virtual reality.
On the kinds of content best suited to VR, Steiber mentioned news and current affairs. “If you could transport yourself to the streets of Paris [after the 2015 terrorist attacks], and you see people lying on the floor, you hear the sounds in stereo, you [feel like you] are actually there. Or you go to the streets of Syria, where there’s chaos and disaster. The empathy machine will come into play and you’ll really feel something that you wouldn’t on a small TV screen. There’s an opportunity to change not just news and scripted and documentary, but also education. The example I like to give is, if you’re into dinosaurs, [you can be] transported to Jurassic Park and walk side by side with a giant Stegosaurus. You see its big head leaning down eating grass, and then you hear the roar of a T-Rex in the background, and the Stegosaurus raises its head, looks afraid and starts moving with the herd. That takes 20 seconds to show, but for a kid, you’ll never forget that. There’s no other way for you to transfer that experience. In virtual reality, we’re democratizing experiences. You can go to Syria, you can go to Mars before Elon Musk. Things that were only available to the few are now becoming available to everyone. That’s the power of VR.”
To avoid going down the path of 3D, which held much promise but fell short of expectations because of the quality of content, “What’s most important [is] that we have great content, great storytelling. That’s why we’re here and we want to invite you all to capture this opportunity. I do think 3D is an unfair comparison. [VR] technology is more immersive and a step change. But we are going to work very hard to make sure that it becomes very user-friendly and very affordable. I think giving people access to more content is going to be key. That’s why we launched a subscription service, so for a small monthly fee you can consume more content than you probably would do otherwise.”
A year from now, Steiber said, “All of you will be selling virtual-reality formats. In schools and libraries, there will be VR for us to test. When you look for your next vacation destination, you will check it out with VR first.”