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Is storytelling the key to VR’s future?

Virtual reality may be the closest to teleportation we will ever have in our lifetime.

A scene from Cirque du Soleil's show, Kurios, which offers an augmented-reality app,
cirquedusoleil.com

A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry. (Insider Exclusives registration required for this one.)


A few weeks back, I attended the Collision Conference in New Orleans. This is my favorite food town, so when I found out Collision would be held in the Crescent City, I booked a flight and made a point to attend this year’s event. Collision has become one of the best shows for up-and-coming startups with a conference program that caters to them and a broader industry audience wanting to keep up with what’s new in tech.

I like to go to this show just to talk to young entrepreneurs from all over the world who come to pitch their startups and get noticed. I saw more than 100 new companies showing everything from new travel apps to new vertical social networks, and a host of others dealing with health, education, regional solutions and finance.

They all got to spend about seven minutes pitching their startups on a "Pitch" stage, and they had a small kiosk in the demo area where everyone could come by and check out what they were doing. This, to me, has become a really worthwhile show to attend, and one that keeps my perspective on the startup world fresh each year.

When cavemen came back from a hunt, they told the story of the hunt in pictures in a cave on the walls. Eventually, storytelling was moved to a frame in paintings and pictures, where it has stayed for the centuries.


As you can imagine, virtual reality and augmented reality were hot topics at the show, and there were multiple sessions on this subject during the conference. But there was one session that really stuck out to me. Its focus was on VR being a new platform for storytelling. The panel included two executives from Samsung: David Eun of Samsung’s Global Innovation Center and Marc Mathieu from Samsung Electronics America. Also on the panel was Jacques Methe of Cirque Du Soleil Media.

All three focused on the fact that VR is set to become one of the most important tools for telling stories, whether by professionals or regular consumers. In fact, Methe said VR "is inventing a new way to tell a story." He referenced a 360-degree AR app in the Oculus Store based on Cirque du Soleil's traveling Kurios show. He said they "put the 360-degree camera in the center of the performance, and people come up and say hi, putting you in the center of the action."

I have played with this app, and it was one of the first VR videos I saw that made me realize how VR will someday revolutionize all forms of entertainment. If you have a Samsung Galaxy VR headset and a Samsung smartphone 5, 6 or 7, I encourage you to download the Cirque Du Soleil Kurio VR app to see for yourself how this could change storytelling within the entertainment industry.

360-degree VR breaks us out of that frame and delivers the scene as if one was at the event and viewing it from the center of the action.


Samsung's Mathieu said that when cavemen came back from a hunt, they told the story of the hunt in pictures in a cave on the walls. Eventually, storytelling was moved to a frame in paintings and pictures where it has stayed for the centuries. Even today, our HD video is shown within a frame, whether it is on a TV, PC, tablet or a smartphone. According to Mathieu, 360-degree VR breaks us out of that frame and delivers the scene as if one was at the event and viewing it from the center of the action. He went on to say, "This may be the closest to teleportation we will ever have in our lifetime." I agree with that view. The really good VR app puts you in the center of the story and tells it all around you in 360-degree views.

Samsung's Eun agreed that professional storytelling like the content from Cirque Du Soliel would be big, but he added that, over time, normal consumers may actually create the greatest amount of content for themselves and their friends. He said to imagine capturing your child’s first steps with a 360-degree video camera and, using the proper goggles, go back and relive this any time you wished. VR puts you back into the experience so that it is always there to view in the future. One could imagine putting a 360-degree VR camera on the table at a child’s birthday party and being able to share that experience with the other parents who were not there. Or using a 360-video camera at a wedding and placing it at the center of the ceremony so friends and relatives who did not attend could view the ceremony as if they had.

To that end, Samsung introduced its 360-degree camera last February, and expects it to be a key content creation tool for consumers and semi-professionals to use to tell their VR stories for use especially with the Gear VR in the near future.

Over time, normal consumers may actually create the greatest amount of VR content for themselves and their friends.


Our research on VR at Creative Strategies shows that user-created content will be an important catalyst to getting consumers to back VR in the future. But what is not clear from our research to date is what type of VR headsets or platforms consumers will adopt to drive VR into a broader consumer mass market. The prices are too high on the Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive to see any serious interest from consumers beyond the high-end gaming market. But the Samsung Gear VR headset and the low-end Google Cardboard headsets are too low-quality to really drive broad adoption, although Eun said that Samsung has sold more than one million Samsung Gear headsets to date.

The good news is that the industry is moving fast to try and create new VR headsets at better prices. But, after listening to the folks on this VR panel at Collision, and especially hearing Cirque's Methe talk so excitedly about how his organization is embracing VR as the next big thing in storytelling, I am convinced that storytelling could be at least one of the killer apps that will drive VR adoption in the future.


Tim Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981, and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others. Reach him @Bajarin.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.