How Virtual Reality is Affecting Film Today

Cannes 2018 is holding it’s annual event in less than a month in Cannes, France, marking a year since one of the most prominent film festivals in the world chose to include a virtual reality project in its selection (Zeitchik). It is no secret that VR has come to the table as a major player in technology since 2012, with the invention of lightweight headgear made by companies including Oculus, Vive, and even Google. We are ushering in an era of virtual reality, and the possibilities for the medium are endless, especially in the world of cinema. The current talk in the industry, regarding VR, is that it will not replace or diminish film but rather add a new dimension the field overall (Watercutter).

Virtual reality’s presence is most evident in film festivals, such as Cannes and Sundance, as the medium is a bit too new and obscure for mainstream Hollywood (George). However VR has made some exponential advances and many pieces have made quite a statement at some of these festivals. At this past Sundance festival, 18 different VR films were featured and one in particular, “Spheres”, was purchased by a buyer for 1.5 million dollars. The writer and director of “Spheres”, Eliza McNitt, created this scientific film with the intent of allowing viewers to immerse themselves in space. She argues that virtual reality lets her audience experience her movie and the cosmic space in a way that traditional cinema simply can’t (George). Another virtual reality film featured at Sundance, “Notes on Blindness: Into the Darkness”, puts viewers in the perspective of blind British author, John Hull, by depicting a dark world highlighted with silhouettes and sounds (Burr). It goes without saying that a movie like this can’t be experienced on a simple screen or TV; the film’s effectiveness is dependent on the immersive features of virtual reality. A variety of other mind-boggling VR works were featured at Sundance and other festivals over the past couple years, leaving critics confident that virtual reality will create a unique and provoking place for itself in the film industry.

Additionally, VR has had an interesting role as a subject matter in entertainment. Steven Spielberg’s most recent movie, “Ready Player One”, portrays a prediction of the world in 2045, where the Earth has collapsed and people have to resort to a virtual space to find education, work, and true human connection (Krupa). In a similar fashion, the conventionally dark TV series, “Black Mirror”, ironically has a hopeful perspective for VR as shown in the episode San Junipero. The episode’s storyline consists of a dying couple who goes to the happy town of San Junipero, by means of VR, and decides to stay in simulation mode around loved ones well into their afterlife (Krupa). “Ready Player One” and “Black Mirror” have optimistic takes on the future of virtual reality. Unlike older films, such as “The Matrix”, where virtual reality is depicted as a nightmarish, isolated technology, recent films and shows are emphasizing just how much VR can heighten human interaction and meaningful social connection (Krupa). Virtual reality is experiencing rapid growth as both a medium and topic for movies and TV, and it’s quite challenging to predict what new elements VR will integrate into the field. We can hopefully look towards this year’s Cannes for a peek into our virtual reality-filled cinematic future.

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Women in VR

Today is International Women’s Day,  so it only seems fair to pause and recognize how vital women have been to the emergence and progression of virtual reality. The sheer number of females, globally, who have made a tangible impact on the field, is astounding. At the 2017 “Women in Tech” panel in Finland, it was even argued by attendees that women have greater involvement in virtual reality over other STEM fields due to the fact that it is a more versatile space, and less male-dominated, as it is so new (Kirschbaum). Regardless of the reason, there are some incredible women who deserve to be honored for their profound influence on VR.

One such woman is Nonny de la Peña, better known as “the Godmother of Virtual Reality”. De la Peña practically pioneered the intersection of VR and immersive journalism, founding the immersive virtual, augmented, and mixed reality company, the Emblematic Group. Some of her work includes, the film “Hunger in L.A”, which was premiered at Sundance, and shows a homeless man collapsing while waiting in line at an LA food bank (Knoepp). By using VR as a tool to truly get people to empathize with societal issues, she has been able to change the meaning of the field as a whole (Helmore). Additionally, de la Peña has seen VR shift right before her eyes from her extensive experience with ancient-looking VR headsets back in the day to her company’s present day use of photogrammetry (not to mention, Oculus Rift founder, Palmer Lucky, once interned for her) (Knoepp).

 

Similar to Nonny de la Peña is Jayisha Patel, a filmmaker who made a short based on the life of an Indian human-trafficking survivor, entitled “Notes to My Father”. Through her work, Patel has not only been able to give users a visceral perspective of the objectification and vulnerability of trafficking victims, but her film also integrates the female voice into VR content, a rare feat in a field where a good amount of the content is targeted towards male-users (Faramarzi). Gio Minaya is yet another female trailblazer in virtual reality, serving as VF supervisor at a leading digital studio in the US called ReelFX. Minaya, who has 20 years of experience in animation production, has said that one of her goals with the development of VR content is to make it a less isolated activity, and bring more people together via virtual reality (Coleman). As a revolutionary face in the field, Minaya additionally states on being a woman, “I don’t look at my gender and think it holds me  back… Women and men should be treated equally but in most cultures that is not the case and this is not confined to the tech industry. It is in most industries” (Coleman).

Beth Marcus, Carolina Cruz-Niera, Jannick Rolland, and Char Davies are just a few more names that are a part of the broad list of distinguished women who have affected the VR realm (Morie). As the female presence in virtual reality and STEM grows, we get more perspective and minds to strengthen the field. Be sure to use today (and honestly everyday) as an excuse to celebrate a woman in your life and all of her accomplishments!!

Meet Clara: Full-Stack Engineer Intern @ Lucid VR!

Welcoming on-board at the start of 2018 is our Full-Stack Engineer Intern, Clara Chen!

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Clara has a unique “ABC” cultured background: American, Burmese, and Chinese. As a Chinese, she was borned and raised in Burma and earned a Bachelor’s Degree at age 19. After exploring in the professional field in oral dentistry for four years, Clara came to the US to further advance her education. In May 2017, she obtained a Master’s Degree in Software Engineering from San Jose State University and headed on to pursue the love at the core of her heart—software engineering.  

In her own words, she strives to become an “ultra skilled and creative engineer who can create ground breaking technology” and this is not simply a verbal goal. Clara devotes herself in expanding and deepening her knowledge and skill sets, i.e. high proficiency in programming languages like Java and Swift and knowledge in version control, design pattern implementations, and AWS. Furthermore, Clara has accumulated experiences in mobile development (Android and iOS development) and specialized in backend development. While her past endeavors emphasized on mobile phone sensor technologies and API implementation and development, she is equipped for much more–and that is why Clara is here at Lucid VR.

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Why does Clara want to join Lucid VR? “I believe Lucid’s mission aligned with my interests perfectly, [which are] visual, photography, and VR technology.” Given, skills alone can bring greatness, but skills and passion combined becomes a powerful tool for excellence. And this is exactly how Clara envisions to break through her limits at Lucid, by dipping her passion and skills into the ocean of the real market. Since cameras (3D camera, VR camera), VR and AR technologies are growing in demand, Lucid VR is the perfect place for self-driven individuals like Clara to skyrocket personal and professional growth like never before.

Here at Lucid, team members have the opportunity to explore a wide range of assignments where skills are refined and perspectives are broadened. Employees take on responsibilities as if they are running the company. In other words, working at Lucid teaches them to try new approaches while holding accountability for the corresponding consequences. A stably growing start up, like Lucid, offers creative insights, flexible accommodations, and accepts constructive feedbacks. For all of these reasons combined, Clara says, “It is very exciting to be a part of the team to contribute in Lucid’s next ground breaking products!

As 2018 kicks off, Lucid VR welcomes new Computer Vision Engineers on board. More than a Computer Vision company, Lucid VR does not just give you work to finish and report back. Rather, it gives you growth–and that’s for you to keep at the end of the day.

 

Want to connect? Say hello to info@lucidcam.com!

Times Have Changed

Blog by: Brian Ferrara

Brian started the popular SFVRCC Meetup group and founded the DIYHMD platform

Brian Ferrera at SFVRCC

Brian Ferrara at SFVRCC

Times have changed in the Tech world, and what was once off-limits because of cost, access or support is now widely, and in some cases freely, available. Open Source, Open Patent and a growing Maker culture that sees no limits to what you can DIY are advancing technologies to the benefit of all. At the forefront of technology that has recently made its way from both garage benches and academic research facilities into a paradigm shifting platform for the masses is Virtual Reality. An exciting technological prospect in its infancy that will grow by leaps and bounds as we enable VR for Everyone.

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VR for Everyone

Virtual reality (VR) is one of the hottest growing technology industries. With such innovative and collaborative VR companies developing, the timing of when VR will hit the mainstream is a question that all have asked.

That’s why Lucid VR set out in this blog to brainstorm and spur conversations on how we can make that adoption happen faster.   How do we bring VR to everyone? That is the question.  In this blog, we’ll ask that question to a variety of VR thought leaders and drivers who all, in their own way, are driving towards that same goal of building the VR industry.

Why is Lucid VR pushing this effort? Lucid VR’s product, LucidCam, is aimed to enable this cause of bringing VR to everyone. LucidCam is affordable, mobile, and extremely shareable.

Follow Lucid VR here for monthly subscription to the blog. If you or someone you know driving this VR mainstream adoption, if so, send over an introduction to info@lucidcam.com.

With that, let’s get this discussion started.