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IBC 2016: Technicolor’s New Facility Lets Creatives and Scientists Explore VR’s Potential

by User Not Found | Sep 19, 2016

Technicolor recently opened its new Technicolor Experience Center in LA, where artists and technologists get to play with the latest gadgets in virtual and augmented reality. I was invited to experience some of the early results at Technicolor’s behind-doors booth at IBC.

The first demo was an isolation cell. The viewer/user is sitting on the bed in a prison cell and able to examine the room and, more importantly, listen to the sounds coming from outside. The demonstration is intended to give some idea of the experience of solitary confinement, and while I have no doubt the real thing is horrific, I did not feel any particular discomfort from my short experience. The quality of the VR was as good as any other demo I have seen, which means it was in no way close to video “reality” but good enough to give a sense of the real-world experience.

The second demo was a space station, and two options were available to the user: the first was described as “ghost” mode, where the user was an observer; and the second was “participant”, which involved “being” the spaceman in the movie. In both cases Technicolor used sensors to give the user “hands” with which to carry out certain actions, and these were visible. I was told that VR users who can see the rest of their virtual body were less likely to feel nausea in certain situations: I’m afraid this didn’t prove to be the case for me, although feelings of discomfort were relatively minor compared to other experiences I have tried.

Technicolor was also demonstrating the ability to use a regular TV set-top box as a VR terminal for the home. The content was not delivered live, but cached for streaming to in-home connected devices, and could be viewed simultaneously by users of different screens. The explanation was that any latency caused by live distribution would be unacceptable for a VR experience.

In spite of all the hype around VR we have to remember that these are early days in a new industry and a lot of learning lies ahead. At the moment each project requires a fair amount of ad hoc development of tools and technologies and it will be a while before these become standardised and transferable. Most significantly, however, the creative industry is pouring time and resources into understanding VR and it is vital that this continues if VR’s potential is to be fulfilled.

David Mercer

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