Why this camera company wants to bring VR into the hands of marketers and consumers
Virtual reality and augmented reality technologies continue to permeate the mainstream; a recent Futuresource study reported a 5 percent growth in the VR market in 2019. But with much of the tech narrative focused on the evolution of software and headsets, and the expansion of applications, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of collecting quality footage.
For many activations, the VR/AR experience is only as good as the 360-degree video that feeds it, and capturing this kind of content requires a 360-degree camera, which records not only the main “focus” of a picture or video but everything around it. This allows the viewer to choose what they want to see, hear and experience.
Camera technology is evolving quickly. Just five years ago, camera manufacturer Insta360 launched out of a college dorm; today, it’s a global leader in the technology.
“Anybody can put together a couple of sensors and make a camera,” says Michael Shabun, VP of marketing at Insta360. “The trick is in the software, and we identify ourselves as a software company first and foremost.”
Shooting with multiple lenses produces an enormous volume of data, says Shabun. In the past, all the footage would have been stitched together manually, but now the app does all the work.
The hardware, too, has evolved. Handheld 360 cameras can now shoot up to 6K, while spherical 360 cameras can capture 11K, while the latest modular product, allows the user to switch between 360-degree camera and a conventional fixed-angle lens.
“You can now give [these cameras] to traditional filmmaking teams that have very limited experience in VR,” says Shabun, “And they can edit this content, just like they would normal, flat video content.”
And the rising popularity of VR headsets (e.g. Oculus, Vive and others) is opening the door for opportunities to use 360-degree technology.
Most applications in the past have been experiential activations, such as movie premieres and product launches (such as test-driving new cars). Now brands are adding to these experiences by combining the footage with, say, seats that cause vibration and create a sense of movement.
From a production standpoint, the technology can be used to support mainstream content; a lot of films and TV shows are creating ancillary content for first-platform devices. So, a user might be watching Nat Geo on their phone or tablet and they are invited to put on their headsets to experience, say, an exotic location.
And at the enterprise level, says Shabun, there a lot of clients in the medical space and the real estate space that are bringing on agencies to create more immersive experiences. House tours, for example, will become commonplace without leaving the comfort of your home.
Shabun predicts in next few years we will see a lot of overlap between VR and AR, particularly with the availability of 5G wireless technology, and more people creating VR content at home.
“People will be able pick up a small handheld camera and then wirelessly stream it into their headset,” says Shabun. “That will be five years from now when the cameras are even better … and it’s much easier to create the content.”