With the news of Facebook’s Oculus Rift virtual reality headset shipping yesterday, we wanted to try out a little VR for ourselves.
The folks at a Venice-based company called WEVR brought over a Samsung Gear VR headset and had The Frame Senior Producer Oscar Garza demo an immersive video experience called “Hard World for Small Things” by director Janicza Bravo.
Consumers may now finally buy the Oculus Rift headset (the Samsung Gear VR has been around a year already), but several reviewers of the Rift and other VR headsets have pointed out that there really aren’t enough games and content to justify the cost yet.
WEVR hopes to change that by bringing new artists and creators to the technology. WEVR co-founder and Executive Vice President of Audience and Marketing Anthony Batt spoke with The Frame’s Oscar Garza about the business of making VR content.
Tell us a little bit about WEVR
WEVR has been around making VR for about two years... As soon as Oculus was sold to Facebook we were very much inspired by the whole movement and we’ve been sort of heads down making VR ever since.
The technology is here, but there’s not a huge amount of content out there. How is WEVR working to change that?
Well, that’s where we come in. We’re really sort of finding creative talent and helping produce their content and becoming the distributors of their content. And that’s what we’ve been doing for the last two years. Because we’ve seen hardware getting developed by a big engineering workforce but we haven’t seen this same level of effort going into creating creators to make VR. And we think that lots of hardware will require lots of content.
Last year WEVR launched a grant program of $1 million to provide selected content creators with project funding. How much have you awarded and are you starting to see the results of that?
We’ve sort of spent the $1 million with creators. We’ve had really good results. We had the piece that you just saw, Janicza Bravo’s piece, she’s a film director. We funded her and her piece got into Sundance. We also funded a fellow named Benjamin Dickinson and Reggie Watts and their piece got into Sundance. We’re sort of pleasantly surprised by how creative people were, and how awesome all the content has turned out.
What is WEVR Transport? I understand it’s something that’s been billed as the YouTube of virtual reality, is that true?
It’s not necessarily true. So what we’re trying to do is, we think there’s a new creator coming out on the marketplace that wants to make VR. And they need a platform to sort of help bear hug them to make the content. That means being a producer, funding them and then also distributing it. So we think of ourselves as like a Netflix or Amazon Prime of VR. Because we’ll be helping sell some of the content directly to consumers or Transport will also be offering sort of premium subscription service to great VR. And I think that’s the way we’d like to be framed.
Tell me about one the favorite pieces that WEVR has developed. I understand there’s an underwater one with a whale?
Yeah, so that one is specifically available on the Vive platform, it will be available on the Oculus platform as well. But that one, you sort of find yourself on a sunken ship. And you see beautiful stingrays floating by and little fish floating by. And then sort of right off the bow of the ship, you see a well over 80-foot whale swim up. And what happens is, the perspective and scale is almost exactly what it would look like if a whale did swim up to you if you were under water... But it certainly makes people write about it because it’s pretty inspiring.
What’s the most exciting thing you see in the future for virtual reality-- the technology, the games, the content?
I think the storytelling. I think that what’s going to be really exciting is how storytellers will adapt to the language of VR and really immerse people in stories really deeply that will cause a real effect on people... I think that that's the most exciting this. I think the technology is cool, but I think technology is always in service of something the consumer wants more immersed storytelling.