“Immersive” is a term typically used to describe the experience that virtual reality provides. Whereas traditional video presentations allow you to witness something, such as the majesty of the sunrise over the Grand Canyon, VR uses a new generation of technology to trick the brain into believing you are actually standing on the North Rim as the sun comes up.
Virtual reality facilitates a deep sensory involvement that makes one feel as if they have been transported into the scene that is playing out before their eyes. It enhances the viewing experiences, essentially transforming witnesses into participants.
Nearly 100 years ago, the pioneers in the VR space envisioned it revolutionizing the world of entertainment. Today, it stands poised to do just that, giving creators in the entertainment space a powerful new tool for connecting with their audiences and drawing them into the experience.
The emergence of VR
Many historians would say that the concept of VR, as we know it today, first appeared in 1935. In a science fiction story titled “Pygmalion’s Spectacles” that was published that year, Stanley Weinbaum wrote about a pair of goggles that are a clear precursor to today’s VR headsets. The goggles welcome their wearer into a world in which they are “in the story,” engaging with the characters and influencing the narrative.
In 1957, a cinematographer named Morton Heilig brought Weinbaum’s idea to life for the first time with an invention known as the Sensorama. The device was essentially a booth that allowed viewers to have an immersive movie experience, complete with three-dimensional video, audio, smells, and haptic interactions such as feeling wind and vibrations. Three years later, Heilig unveiled the Telesphere Mask — the precursor to today’s VR headsets.
Over the next 35 years, a VR industry emerged and a number of inventors introduced a string of VR innovations, including head-tracking systems that allowed those wearing the headset to peer about within the virtual environment. By 1990, VR had emerged from the realm of research and military applications to empower a new generation of gaming interaction.
The modern age of VR
The virtual reality industry struggled in the early 21st century until the 2013 appearance of the Oculus Rift. This revolutionary VR headset captured the imagination of tens of thousands of people who were excited about supporting the advancement of VR technology. The Oculus Rift spurred a renewed interest in the potential for VR, kickstarting the industry and inspiring the development of even more powerful technology innovations.
The development of VR headsets with higher-resolution video screens was one of the keys that led to industry expansion. At the same time, advances in technology allowed for a wider field of view, which allowed images to expand into the user’s peripheral vision. These two innovations working together allowed users to enter an immersive environment that closely mimicked the real world, eventually leading to VR applications that involved everything from spherical cinema to skydiving simulations and immersive gaming.
Design innovations also made VR headsets more comfortable to wear. As they became lighter and more ergonomically correct, users could enjoy the VR experience for longer periods of time. Wireless headsets were also introduced, meaning users no longer needed to be tethered to a computer or other device as they explored virtual worlds.
The growth of VR entertainment
The development of controllers to be used in the virtual reality space was another innovation that had a significant impact on the industry. By giving users the ability to grab, point, and engage in other ways with the virtual environment, controllers brought a level of interaction that had a huge impact on the development of VR gaming.
The latest virtual reality technology is empowering the development of free-roam VR, in which gamers equipped with wireless VR headsets and controllers move about freely within a physical space while experiencing a fantastic, interactive, and totally immersive virtual environment. This full-motion VR experience empowers users to interact with fellow gamers as well as interactive elements in both the physical and virtual landscapes.
As VR technology has become more accessible to both users and developers, it has also sparked interest in the creation of VR entertainment experiences that blur the line between cinema and gaming. A new wave of VR gaming programs starts viewers with a movie experience, inviting them to put on a headset, step into the story, and engage with an immersive landscape in a way that moves the movie’s narrative forward.
The novel experiences that VR empowers are ushering in a new era of entertainment. For storytellers, virtual reality provides the tools to connect with audiences in powerful new ways. For game developers, VR opens the door to delivering unprecedented levels of interaction and engagement. And for all who are seeking new thrills, VR brings the capability to enjoy unbelievable immersive adventures, unlike anything they have experienced before.
Vasily Petrenko, CEO of Another World VR, is an entrepreneur and business development professional with nearly a decade in the entertainment business, starting with Escape Rooms, having opened the first one in his city in 2014. From there he grew the Escape Rooms reach while also envisioning what would eventually become Another World VR. With a vast and varied entertainment and entrepreneurial background, Vasily pursues his goals with enthusiasm and the knowledge of how to make a successful entertainment franchise in a new medium of technology. Vasily also has a Degree in Cytology and Genetics from the University of Novosibirsk, graduating in 2013 after five years of study.