Virtual reality and what it means for media content
If you haven’t yet seen the viral video“Grandma Tries VR for the First Time,” stop reading and spend 42 seconds on it now. You won’t regret it.
Eighty-nine-year-old Marie’s reaction to “riding” a virtual reality rollercoaster using Google Cardboard is sure to bring a smile to your face – and quickly put into perspective the possibility and opportunity of this technology.
Today, companies are seriously envisioning a future where VR is less of a gimmick and more of an everyday source of entertainment. Google Cardboard – which sells for about $20 – is putting the once incredibly expensive technology into anybody’s hands. And companies like Samsung and Sony are coming out with products to compete with the well-known Oculus Rift.
We seem to be on the cusp of something big – and if Marie’s reaction proves anything, it’s going to be fun, too.
Most media companies recognize the opportunity. In November 2015, Comcast and Time Warnerinvested big bucks in NextVR Inc., a technology that broadcasts live events in virtual reality. While a VR version of a U.S. presidential debate doesn’t sound particularly riveting, a football match or NASCAR race could be pretty cool.
And one thing will be certain: When we all unwrap our VR devices next Christmas, we’re going to be hungry for virtual reality content to watch on them. Right now, there’s not so much out there. Andmany of the videos that do exist are being created by and for brands. (Really, how manyskateboarding videos “brought to you by Mountain Dew” can a person watch?)
Traditional media companies have some work to do to translate their typical content experience to the VR platform. BBC has been playing around with the technology, doing some interesting reporting on the European migrant issue. The New York Times has an app with a handful of videos, some made with advertisers. Other organizations – including ABC, AP and Al Jazeera English – are dipping their toes in the matrix. And educational organizations are seeing the huge potential to teach subjects such as anatomy with virtual reality content.
But these organizations face challenges, including investments in the cameras and technology needed to shoot, edit and publish videos across platforms, as well as training for staff.
And then come the technical difficulties. While traditional video eats up storage space, high-quality 360-degree video (often referred to as 4K 360) devours it. From the blog Videomaker: “Consider this: One hour of standard definition DV footage requires approximately 12.7 GB of storage; approximately 217 MB per minute. By comparison, one hours of RAW 4K content requires close to 110 GB of storage; approximately 2GB per minute.”
If storage doesn’t prove to be an issue, accessing, editing and playing back content might be, again due to those daunting file sizes.
For some media companies, the investment in VR might not be worth the payoff at this stage in the game. But I’d keep my eye on Marie. I think she’s on to something.
Is your company ready to put the reality in virtual reality? What content challenges do you face?
As always, I welcome your input on how to approach changes and challenges in media. If you think I’ve misread a situation or trend, let me know. If you have a new way of thinking about the topics we discuss, pass it on. I want to engage with all of you in this space as together we make sense of today’s media industry.