Perspectives on the digital video world from JW Player’s SVP of Technology
My interest in virtual reality started in 3rd grade, when I was obsessed with a book called Danny Dunn, Invisible Boy. It’s about a kid who is given a dragonfly robot that can be controlled with a “telepresence helmet” and gloves. He uses his ability to virtually exist in other places to enforce justice, specifically exposing a Spelling Bee cheater and preventing the dragonfly from falling into the hands of people with sinister motives.
The book was published 44 years ago—obviously the authors were quite prescient. It was not the first work of fiction to describe virtual reality, however (in English, anyway). That honor goes to the 1935 short story “Pygmalion’s Spectacles” by Stanley G. Weinbaum.
My point is, people have dreamed of immersing their consciousness (minus their bodies) in other realities for a long time, but we have only recently developed the technology to actually do it.
So why are so few people, myself included, using it? By consumer electronics standards, sales of VR headsets were minuscule in 2017, as they were in 2016, though analysts are predicting a surge in 2018—as they did in 2016 and 2017.
I think it’s primarily because, despite huge investments and promotion from Google, HTC, Facebook, Samsung, and others, using VR equipment is still too expensive, difficult, and awkward for most consumers. After the initial novelty of VR, people can’t be bothered to strap a viewing device to their head simply to watch a few videos.
However, I also think people would put up with the clunky user experience if there were more interesting content to watch, specifically 360 video. But creating and distributing 360 video content is still incredibly difficult and expensive for most publishers.
The people at Fraunhofer FOKUS have invited me to speak about 360 video at 7th FOKUS Web Media Symposium in Berlin on May 15. I won’t be demoing any robotic dragonflies, but in the session “Making 360 Video Easy for Publishers,” I will discuss the challenges facing publishers who want to get their 360 video on the web and some ideas for overcoming them.
JW Player offers products and tools to make publishing 360 video easier today. For more info, see Pearl’s “360 Video: Looking Back and Ahead” post and Henry’s series on “360 Video & Virtual Reality (VR) in JW Player.”
To learn more about JW Player’s 360 video support, schedule time to speak with a video expert.
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