With the emergence of virtual reality, it is now possible to be present anywhere real-time without being physically present there. All one must do is to wear a virtual reality gear around his or her head.
Virtual Reality (VR) is nothing but technology that simulates the senses of the user by generating realistic images, sounds and sometimes even the movement to create an environment making them feel like they are physically present at that time. By definition, it is, “A realistic and immersive simulation of a three-dimensional environment, created using interactive software and hardware, and experienced or controlled by movement of the body or as an “immersive, interactive experience generated by a computer.”
This technology where a headgear is used to explore virtual reality has been explored for years but it was in 2012 that Oculus, a virtual reality headset by Oculus VR, became the first company to launch virtual reality headsets designed for the public. It was later bought by Facebook in 2014.
As the world is exploring the application of this technology in many spaces, many companies in Chennai is exploring the various use of this technology. WePOP AR Research Lab that was started in 2006, uses Augmented Reality (A technology that superimposes computer-generated images on a user’s view of the real world. For example, the Pokemon game) and VR solutions to their clients helping them interact better with the customers.
“One of our clients is a real estate giant that has several newly built properties all across Chennai including the outskirts. So, when they have their stalls at property fairs, how do they convince customers to consider a property somewhere on OMR without actually being present there? We make a video of the entire property. All the customer has to do is to wear the VR head gear and he or she will feel like they are right at the property and they can even tune 360 degrees to have the feel of the place,” says Chandrasekran K, Technical lead of WePOP, adding that they organise VR games and ad campaigns in malls for the customers. Not just real estate, players in this space say that colleges can organise campus tours too using this technology.
Tech pro: The technology for shooting these videos are different. “These days one can take 360 degree photographs from their smartphones but there are different kinds of cameras needed to shoot a 360 degree video. For instance, one of the devices we use is GoPro’s Omni-All Inclusive, which is a synchronized 6-camera array, where cameras can be mounted in slots that capture different angles on the same shot. There is 360° VR cameras by Kodak Pixpro. There are other camera companies too that provide such technology,” says Dharaneetharan G D of TelePort 360, a Chennai-based start-up that is taking VR to the common people.
Explaining how they work, he explains, “To put things simply, we take videos with six different cameras in six different angles that covers 60 degrees each. We then stitch it together to put out a 360 degree view. There are technologies that capture a certain image as many as 60 cameras. Having said that, the challenge lies in post- production that requires stitching of the different videos to make it one.”
Wedding shots: They even shoot 360 degree wedding videos. “Weddings are an important part of anyone’s life. We shoot the video in such a way that someone who has missed the wedding functions can wear the headgear and experience the function like they were present there. We have also taken videos of award functions where people might think they are part of the crowd,” says Dharaneetharan, adding, “The next step is to go live with it. Making these videos can be expensive as the cost of the technology and equipment runs into over Rs 5 lakhs, not including overheads. Depending on the event we charge anywhere around 1.5 lakhs. Wedding videos cost more.”
A couple watching their wedding video using VR headgear
Gaming Centre in Chennai: Worldwide, it is the gaming industry that is making the most of this technology. In fact, Chennai has India’s first “Interactive Virtual Reality, Entertainment Centre at Ispahani Centre, Kaleidozone in Nungambakkam that was launched in November 2016.
Here people can enjoy games like, Ride a Dragon (where one feels like they are riding on top of a dragon), Dragon Lord (where the player becomes a rider to collect golden eggs), Balloon Terror (the player is on an air balloon that snaps and they have to walk across a wooden plank to another balloon), Hover Board (when the user thinks he is on a hover board as has dodge obstacles), Dodgem MP (the user in on the edge of a skyscraper and has to dodge objects from the opposite side), Space Lord (the user gets to pilot across space) and Soccer Head (wherein the player has to head the ball to earn points). All this happens in a closed environment.
Though people are stationed in one place, all the experiences seem real once they wear the VR headsets. One does need to hold on to supports as the brain is tricked into believing the use is hanging mid-air on hovering on a dragon because of the headgear.
“We do it using advanced devices and equipments. It was challenging to get the technology. We started out with Freeing India, which the city’s first Real Escape Game. After receiving good feedback, we decided to go a notch-up and worked over two years to come with the VR gaming arcade. We conceptualised the ideas, brainstormed and came out with a pilot that did well. The challenge was getting the technology. We wrote to companies for computer rigs but that was not available. We had to develop it on our own. We also had to import head gears, simulators and sensors for tracking body movement,” says Murali Barathi, founder and director, adding, “There is only growth for this as the future is likely to see many advancements.”