Virtual and Augmented Reality and first person media

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) offer a possibility that hasn’t been so present in media – a truly first person perspective.

First person perspective, where you see things through the eyes of another person or fictional character, has long been a regular form of narrative for novels. It has also been has been used in electronic media in some cases, within the limits of display technologies. In electronic gaming, the first person shooter genre, going back to Doom, displays a flat representation of the perspective of the player character. In film, there are a few interesting examples where large parts of a film are shot to tell the story through the eyes of the main character. Enter the Void and Diving Bell and the Butterfly are good examples of this.

But newer technology of VR and AR take things another level beyond. 

Just quickly for those who may be unfamiliar, VR and AR are two related, but subtly distinct forms of immersive media. In VR, through wearable goggles and other peripherals, a person is immersed in a separate, virtual space, some separate, alternate reality. In AR, the user is still within the visual space of normal reality, but augmentations are superimposed in the field of view over the objects of your space. The first is an escape to a different reality, while the second is a blending of this reality with digitally displayed virtual objects. A good example of VR is Oculus VR, while an intriguing example of AR is Microsoft’s HoloLens.

 

In both, the display is typically wrapped around your field of view. It takes up your whole visual space, or almost. While watching a film or playing a typical video game, you sit in your normal space and see images on a screen within part of your field of view. VR and AR can go beyond this. You’re not watching a presentation or watching a story from some distance. You’re there in the midst of it. You live it, almost. And this makes a big difference in terms of realism and immersion.

It’s no longer so much imagining being in the story, but experiencing it. You become a first person spectator, or participant, in interactive media. You are the character. You fully enter the world of the media.

Imagine the possibilities for:

  • advertising – This could have a hugeimpact. With these sorts of technology, there is no need to make someone imagine the experience of the product. They can just have the experience first hand.
  • creative storytelling in film – For example, see the recent announcements about Oculus VR and short films.
  • creative storytelling and gameplay in games. You already have the first person shooter (FPS) genre. I recently started the game Destiny on my Xbox. You’re just immersed in these majestic landscapes. How much more engaging and immersive if the screen is wrapped around your face and you’re in the middle of it? 
  • creative storytelling in interactive media 
  • teaching and training – to put students within a scientific simulation or visualization, to virtually repair a 3d model of a piece of equipment, to virtually visit a historical site or a recreation of a historic event in an immersive manner

Overall, there are possibilities here for a whole new type of media. It will be interesting to see what creative people can do with it.