Virtual reality and the silver screen: A match made in heaven

Originally published October 13, 2014

By Ian Sherr and Shara Tibken

Virtual reality can transport you to distant space to participate in an epic starship battle, or it can drop you in the ocean, with sharks swimming all around.

But its biggest act yet may be showing you a plain old movie.

For the past two years, developers large and small have been toiling away hoping to create the app that becomes synonymous with VR and helps the technology really take off — its “killer app,” as it’s called.

That may have already happened, and it isn’t a game, a panoramic photo application or a calming simulation of a beach scene; it’s movies. As VR technology begins its march to store shelves, manufacturers like Oculus are recognizing the potential for their immersive technologies to deliver the works of Hollywood.

When Oculus first unveiled its headset two years ago, it was pitched as a next-generation video game device.  Companies such as Samsung and Sony have since joined in, funding new development for the burgeoning technology. But to make the device succeed, it needs to appeal to more than just gamers. And that’s where movies comes in.”

“The key to mainstream consumer adoption is going to be enough immersive content on a continual basis that people will be coming back for,” said Jens Christensen, head of virtual reality camera maker Jaunt. Imagine being on an airplane, staring at a movie on the screen of a tablet or on a tinier display installed in the seat in front of you, he said.

Now, consider putting on a virtual reality headset instead. “You suddenly get a 20-foot screen in front of your face–it’s a virtual screen, but it’s huge, and it’s a big difference,” he said.